Our Kadey Krogen Trawler

Our Kadey Krogen Trawler

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lake Champlain – rain or shine

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! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Richelieu River and Canals

The Richelieu River and Canals - farewell Canada
With a very favorable current pushing us down the St. Lawrence we made the run to Saint Ours Canal – almost 60 miles – with an average speed of 9 mph.  As a result, we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon in the park on the Island Darvard between the lock and the dam which constitutes the St. Ours Canal. Since this river is home to one special endangered fish – the Copper Redhorse  - a special fish ladder was constructed with the new dam in the 1960s to allow the fish to travel to their traditional spanning grounds up river.  While the dam was not impressive – the twisty fish ladder was interesting, but sadly we did not see any fish making the climb on our visit. On the island we also visited the historic canal superintendent’s house which is now a visitor center and mini-museum.  Our stop coincided with an “event” so the place was packed with families and tents enjoying the sunny afternoon and learning the history of this area. This “canal” consists of only the one lock which lifted us 5 feet to clear the rapids here and smooth our run up the river for the next 30 miles to Chambly.

The town of Chambly sits at the top of the Chambly canal – a 19 kilometer stretch with 9 locks again to circumvent a series of rapids between Chambly and St. Jean sur Richelieu. Both towns were major defensive points on this route between Lake Champlain and the United States and both New France and British North America/Canada.  These forts were developed as a result of the failed American attempts to conquer lower Canada during the American revolutionary war and again during the War of 1812.  The English beefed up the defenses along the border with the U.S. as a precaution.  From these military roots,  we still have forts like the one  we saw at Kingston and again in Chambly, the Rideau Canal and this navigable water route between the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain which allows the friendly exchange of pleasure boats easy transit between the two countries. Many of the forts which the British built have been restored and are now maintained as parks like the one here on the shores of Chambly Basin. Only a few of the original buildings remain, but the there is enough to give the flavor of this town that has roots reaching back to the American revolutionary era.  The majority of the town’s historic district, however, dates to the height of the canal’s prosperity in the mid to late 19th Century. 

From Chambly it took most of a day – almost 6 hours – to reach the last lock on this canal in St. Jean sur Richelieu where we spent out last last night in Canada. :(

During our summer in Canada there is one question we were repeatedly asked.  “Do you really come from Florida?”  Immediately followed by – “Did you really come all the way by boat and how long did it take?”  Many Canadians spend at least part of the winter in the southern U.S. and some had even heard of Panama City although few really had any idea where we call home.  All of our questioners, however, were courteous.  No matter how great their curiosity, we were never “bothered” or harassed.  Conversations inevitably started with – “excuse me” or “sorry to bother you but….”. The stereo-type of Canadian politeness was in every case our experience. Maybe it is just boating, but we have been fortunate to encounter helpful, thoughtful, and kind people all along our route. This is especially true in the French areas where English – especially menus and instructions are harder to find.  My pitiful French is greeted with a smile and the friendly desire to meet me halfway with their English – always more proficient than my French.  It is with regret that we are soon leaving our northern neighbors and look forward to returning in the coming seasons. Of course, those almond croissants and bowls of frothy Cappuccino might have something to do with it as well!
Finally a shout out to the outstanding service we have enjoyed at all the Parks Canada locks and docks.  The smiles, greetings, and helpful operation of locks in rain or burning sunshine has been special bonus to our time this summer.  Thanks, keep up the good work and hope to be back soon.