Lake Champlain – rain or shine
The rains began falling as we crossed the red dotted line marking the US/Canada border and continued as we struggled to tie to the mini floating docks at the custom shed. The kind crew on the border enforcement boat jumped out to help so we could officially clear back into the states without blowing away. Paperwork in order – herb garden still on board, we continued around the corner to Gaines Marina in Rouses Point. With good luck we caught the Friday afternoon farmer’s market for fresh produce, local wine and dinner. This tiny hamlet also had a convenient Laundromat with a bonus literacy lesson. The walls were papered with signs from the professionally printed “Children must be supervised” to dozens of hand written on gold paper “Do not wash any rugs”. In between were a variety of shorter and longer missives with instructions on how to use the coin machine, where to find soap, how long the machines would run, when the doors automatically lock, and most amusing what would happen if caught digging in the trash – being banned for life and turned over to the police. The final word on the way out the door, of course, said “Thanks for doing your laundry with us!” Oh yes, there were numerous reminders that the premises were being videotaped which is why there are no photos of the signs :-)
Since leaving Gaines, we have hung around on Lake Champlain enjoying gradually improving weather. It rained most of our time in Deep Bay and as we crossed The Gut to City Bay and North Hero. After stopping for lunch at Hero’s Welcome the sun finally poked out for a short walk among the antique shops in North Hero. Our objective here was the general store, Hero’s Welcome, a living example of the store with everything that is the heart of its community. This multi-building complex includes a post office, deli and bakery, hotel and a store that sells many goodies from screws to cake mixes. Steve even found the food coloring we need to track a leak in our water system. The book section was impressive as was the kitchen gear, food and miscellaneous treats. The neighboring antique stores were a bonus and a chance to enjoy a little sunshine. The local history museum was also open and worth a stop in this vintage building.
The weather improved even more as we moved over to Burton Island State Park in the Inland Sea. This full service park is unique in Vermont since the only access is by boat/ferry. The frequent ferry runs bring families with bikes and camping gear for day use or overnight stays in one of the campsites or primitive lean-tos. It is easy to see the appeal of an island park where the kids can’t get away but have the freedom to ride their bikes with abandon, fish off the docks, or swim in the brisk water. The park also has a roomy harbor and mooring balls one of which we caught. The island has had several names over the years from White – named for the tree bark, to Potter and then Burton – both names of former owners who farmed the land here. Even though the last owner was not a Burton, it has retained that name. In the 1960s the island was deeded to the state for a park and has gradually been returned to the wild – on a short walk we saw the few remains of the farming years and with sunshine admired the views over the lake. As the weather continued to improve we re-crossed The Gut – a narrow and shallow opening between The Inland Sea eastern section of the upper lake and the main western portion.
We headed for Valcour Island where a wealth of anchoring possibilities was available since the winds promised to be light. We chose one on the sheltered west shore of this historic island – famed for a Benedict Arnold battle with the British during the Revolutionary War. On the island we hiked up to the lighthouse that is currently being renovated but the working crew happily took a break to let us wander around and enjoy the views. This light is still active – or more accurately – re-activated. In 1930s the light was transferred to a steel tower but then in the early 2000s the light was moved back to the historic building and powered with the sun. The steel tower is now home to an osprey family. While we had the cove to ourselves when we dropped anchor and left for our walk, by sunset there were 12 or so boats with us and many more came and left during the afternoon. All this on a weekday – we were glad our stop was not on a weekend when we hear it can get busy!
Steve used the warm sunshine to change the prop on our stern thruster – just an excuse for a swim except he had to wear his wet suit or freeze some vital parts. In addition, he began the process of installing new and more secure door locks – just a busy guy. I, in contrast, had no trouble lounging in my PJs with a book!