Day 6. Prescott Marina
We left Gananoque Marina at 10 am and motored on the St. Lawrence River where the current is very strong. The Garmin GPS indicated 8 knots over ground. We put up the main jib while passing Brockville and arrived at Prescott at 4 pm.
We met a young couple, Cindi and Matt, who showed an interest in our boat. They would like to cross oceans within 5 years. We wish them success in fulfilling their dreams.
Day 7. Cornwall
We left Prescott Marina at 7:30 am and followed a ship, the AlgoSoo, into three locks: the Iroquois Lock (Canadian), the Eisenhower Lock (American), and the Snell Lock (American, see photo). At both American locks we waited over half an hour for the ship to go through. The locks were just barely large enough to accommodate it. We were glad we had our old oversized fenders with us because the lock walls were rough.
We had excellent weather going through the locks, but once we were anchored east of Cornwall, several squalls rolled through. Uwe and I took shifts on anchor watch overnight. We stayed at the anchorage an extra day because we felt that with wind gusts up to 30 knots, it was unsafe to proceed through the narrow shipping channels. We were pleasantly surprised when the Coast Guard and Research vessel (which often docks at CCIW), the Griffin, anchored along side of us. I believe they were anchored to wait out the high winds before checking on channel buoys.
Day 9. Beauharnois Locks
At the first lift bridge, Pont de Valleyfield, we waited 40 minutes because the AlgoSoo had just gone through, and the operators did not want to disrupt the traffic so soon after. There was no delay at the second lift bridge, Pont St. Louis.
The wait at the two Beauharnois Locks was over 2 hours. A small motorboat with engine problems went in the locks with us. We anchored just off the St. Lawrence River buoyed channel in shallow water but felt quite exposed to wind and rain because we were not in the wind shadow of any islands - it was wide open.
Day 10. Longueille
We were pleasantly surprised when the Pont CP lift bridge went up as soon as we approached it! And we only had to wait 5 minutes at the St. Catharine's Lock. Uwe was proud that he was able to communicate in French with the lock masters. Again at the St. Lambert Lock, we didn't have to wait at all.
We stayed overnight at the Port de Plaisance, in Longueille, which had very nice staff who were trying to practice their English and were pleased to help us with our French.
Day 11. Sorel
Thank heavens for our AIS reciever! Because of the AIS, we figured out what the ship "Thalassa Desgagnes" was doing. The ship initially overtook us at 13 knots, slowed down to 2 knots, backed into an area marked on the chart as "ship anchorage", and then proceeded in the opposite direction. We finally passed around it by going outside the buoyed channel where the chart indicated safe depths for us (greater than 2.5 M). We also passed "Bacancier", a C&C called "Wind Shadow" and "Oceanex Avalon".
The rest of the day was spent following channel markers and watching passing ships going upstream. At buoy S114 in Sorel, we turned into a side channel to anchor south of Ile Plate for the night. Because of the 2 knot current, we arrived at this destination earlier than expected and I made chocolate cake to celebrate!
Day 12. Rivière Batiscan
There was a weather alert for strong winds and thunderstorms today. We met up with "Thalassa Degagnes" AGAIN, and AGAIN it anchored in front of us! This time the river at Trois Rivières (at Pont Laviolette) was wide enough that there was no problem for us to get around it. We also passed "Maria Desgagnes" and "Algoma Navigator". Not too many ships so far. We anchored just past the mouth of Rivière Batiscan.
We have crossed the length of Lake Ontario five times in our previous boat, CS-cape, and this trip would be our third in Stonefire. This may be our farewell excursion to our favourite Lake Ontario ports and Thousand Island anchorages (see photo, Great Blue Heron in centre of photo). Because of our rudder repair delay, we will be unable to spend very much time at any of them.
DAY 1. Bronte Outer Harbour Marina to Whitby Harbour Marina
We left BOHM at 9:30 am and arrived at Whitby Harbour Marina at 5:00 pm. The wind was from the east, the direction we were heading, so we motored most of the way. Because the day was sunny and pleasant, I did three small loads of laundry while underway. I have a toilet plunger (new) to agitate the clothing in a bucket of water and a portable hand wringer to wring out excess water. My "washing machine" worked like a charm. We had roast sirloin pork, rice-onion-egg and peas for supper, AND a beer!
DAY 2. Whitby Harbour Marina to Kerr Bay
We left Whitby at 4:30 pm, and boy was it windy on the lake compared to the marina! Waves were only 1 metre from trough to crest, certainly nothing to worry about, but we were glad we put on our anti-sea-sickness patches (Transderm Scopalamine)! At the beginning of a sailing trip when we still do not have our sea-legs, we like to take anti-nausea medication. We were pleased that Stonefire ploughed into the waves with no rocking horse action. Then shortly after we were underway, a rain squall hit us. I had just put on my rain pants, but Uwe was trying to shorten sails first before he put on his. He was drenched within minutes! We sailed all night; I took the first shift: 10 pm to 2 am; Uwe took the second: 2 am to 6 am. Uwe slept another hour or so before we reached the K14 marker in Prince Edward Bay. Several ships were identified by our AIS (Automatic Identification System) receiver but they were not close enough for us to see them, even with our binoculars. We were surprised there wasn't more ship traffic.
DAY 3. Anchored in beautiful Kerr Bay, a quiet anchorage in which to rest up!
DAY 4. Thousand Islands
We motored past Kingston, had a beautiful sail in the large bay near Howe Island, and then anchored south of Beau Rivage Island, one of our many favourite spots in the Thousand Islands.
DAY 5. Gananoque Marina
We refilled our tank with diesel fuel at Gordon's Marine and emptied our holding tanks at the marina. Our long-time friends (from University days), Jean and Carol, treated us to champagne and a beautiful time at Athlone Inn restaurant! The cuisine was wonderful, and the visit even more so!
Before we were able to get some off-shore boat insurance, we needed to provide the company with a survey conducted within the last 12 months. Our last survey was done when we purchased the boat 4 years ago in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Oh dear! We did not think about needing a survey! But we were in luck. The surveyor who completed the survey on Stonefire at the time of purchase was kind enough to do so again on short notice. Everything on Stonefire he considered to be fine, except for the rudder about which he was uncertain. There was delamination of the fiberglass skin on the rudder which meant water had gotten in somehow, and could mean serious corrosion of the steel frame. So he recommended it be inspected.
Inspection of the rudder meant dropping it from the boat, cutting through the fiberglass, inspecting the steel frame, welding on new steel if required and then rebuilding the rudder. Again we had some luck because Nick Bailey (of DIY magazine fame for the article on rudders) at Bristol Marine said it could be done expeditiously if we brought the rudder to him before the beginning of the busy season in May.
We had never taken off a rudder before! It meant working on seized screws for 3 days. It meant digging a 1-foot hole under it because the shaft was so long (see photo).
Although our rudder had no signs of frame corrosion, it still took the experts at Bristol Marine three weeks to inspect the rudder, re-fiberglass it, one side at a time so that the shape of the rudder would not be de-formed, repaint with Interprotect, and finally re-paint with antifouling. The Bristol Marine staff did a fabulous job!
Then we had to re-install it again. Uwe used rope, blocks and tackles for hoisting it back up. Not an easy task. Our good friend, David, was always there at just the right moment to provide some help!
Of course all this drama over the rudder caused us to miss our original launch date. But once again BOHM staff showed compassion for our plight and re-scheduled it without penalty.
The mast was delivered from Klacko Spars a couple of days later. The mast head was reinforced and other modifications made it stronger. It was also repainted and looked awesome. It took Uwe and me all day to get it ready for stepping: things we never did before such as re-installing the rod rigging and the radar, and things we were familiar with such as spreaders, furlers, antenna and Windex.
A couple more modifications which required that Uwe climb the mast with the ATN TopClimber, and then we were on our way! It has been so very difficult to say good bye to our family and our friends.
05/15/2012, Bronte Outer Harbour Marina
A question I have been asked often in the past couple of weeks is, "How do you know how much food to bring?"
A couple of years ago, with our mid-cabin locker filled with non-perishables (see photo), we were able to travel to the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River from the western end of Lake Ontario, and back again, without having to shop for groceries! It was great to anchor and moor among the beautiful islands without needing to make frequent shopping trips to Gananoque. It was also good practice for our planned extended cruise!
I learned a great deal about provisioning by reading Lin Pardey's book, "The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew", and by participating in the Seven Seas University webinar presented by Barbara Theisen, "Complete Guide to Provisioning".
Lin Pardey suggested estimating how long it would take for the ocean passage and then adding 50% more. Because I estimated that our longest passage would be approximately a maximum of 8 weeks, adding 50% (4 weeks) came to 3 months. I determined menus for a 2-week period, made up an ingredients list, and then multiplied by 6 in order to have a 3-month supply of non-perishables. I consider the mid-cabin locker to be my "short-term" storage locker. It will be restocked at ports, or from other less accessible long-term storage areas on the boat. I also have a pantry for Rubbermaid containers of flour, sugar, rice, pasta, etc.
Lin Pardey also documented several methods for long-term storage of fresh eggs without refrigeration. For the Thousand Island trip, I tried the "boiling for 10 seconds" method, which worked really well. I also had success with her method of keeping cheese unrefrigerated in jars of olive oil.
In port or at anchorages, we can have meals with fresh meat, vegetables and fruit, but on ocean passages of more than a week, we will be dependent upon our non-perishables. We may get tired of tuna quiche, spaghetti, chili and Pad Thai, but at least we won't starve. At least that is the theory! Keep posted!
03/22/2012, Burlington, Ontario
From what? From the stereotypical expected behaviour and lifestyle of a respectable couple in late middle age, from the "little boxes made of ticky-tacky", from suburbs, lawns, driveways, cars, 112 V electrical power, piped-in natural gas, dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines (actually we do have one for the boat - it's a bucket with a plunger and an old-fashioned hand-crank clothes wringer), and from the images so often shown in vacation ads of middle age people at resorts or on cruise ships - not that these are bad, but we want much more. It's not just running from, but also running to. We want to see dolphins, whales, albatross, bioluminescence and stars from a small boat in the middle of the ocean unobstructed from all the trappings of civilization. We want to experience the ocean in all its majesty, the up and down motion of the boat in the large ocean swells, the sunsets and sunrises on a 360 degree expanse of horizon. We want to feel what the natural world is really like, not just watch it on National Geographic TV.
It would have been great to do this a decade or two ago, before the widespread use of GPS. Unfortunately, the significant safety and security provided by GPS and satellite phones makes it inexcusable not to use such devices, but this does take away from the real experience. A sextant, and an understanding of how to use it, provides a much greater appreciation of the stars, the planets, what time is, and our location in the world than GPS ever can. There is a real satisfaction achieved in seeing a landfall appear almost exactly where and when it is expected using only simple navigation tools like dead-reckoning (which we did in our early cruising days on Georgian Bay and Lake Ontario, before we had GPS). We look forward to "verifying" our GPS positions on the ocean by sextant.
And what about the stormy weather, the seasickness, trying to clear customs in a strange port in a foreign language, grocery shopping with a dictionary and hand gestures because you cannot read the label? These we expect as well. But I recall reading somewhere that a person does not grow unless one pushes oneself beyond one's comfort zone, and we are definitely doing that too. Hopefully when we lie on our deathbeds we can think back and not regret the things we did not do, either because we were too afraid or just wanted to remain too comfortable.
01/06/2012, Burlington, Ontario
1. Question: With reference to first point of blog dated 11/17/2011: I guess next time you'll let the Coast Guard know you are testing out your emergency sail?
Answer: The Halton Police Marine Unit, working out of Bronte Outer Harbour Marina, know us: during the Bronte Outer Harbour Marina Boat Show last August, an officer told us that Stonefire was equipped with the required safety equipment, and more. After the orange sail incident, we headed in, docked the boat, and then Uwe went over to speak to the officers. The officers explained that when someone from the public calls, they are obligated to motor out to the "distressed" vessel and to receive an "OK" sign from the captain. So it is more a problem of educating the public that orange storm sails [see photo] are not red flags requesting a "Mayday".
2. Question: When are you leaving and for how long?
Answer: We are planning to leave Bronte Outer Harbour Marina as soon as the boat is provisioned this coming spring, and if all goes well, island-hop for about 2.5 to 3 years.
3. Questions: How did you like living aboard the boat during the month of October? Were you at a marina? Are you keeping the boat in the water over the winter (with bubblers around it) or are you taking it out? There are a few boaters at the Bluffers Park marina that live aboard during the winter and I always wondered how comfortable that would be. I think it would be pretty cozy, and with a good book and a glass of wine, heaven!
Answers: We loved living on board at our Bronte Outer Harbour Marina berth, as the Webasto heater we had previously installed kept our cabin toasty warm. Yes, it is heaven, especially with a good book and a glass of wine! We've seen boats at Bluffers Park Marina and Port Credit Marina with bubblers in the winter, AND some shrink-wrapped to ward off the cold, but our boat is out of the water for the winter. For one thing, we have many winter projects on which we've been working: Uwe is building shelving for lockers and the refrigerator, and I am sewing a dinghy motor cover, and cockpit bags to store sail sheets while underway.