Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!
While waiting for the wind to lay down and get less than 15 mph, the skipper decided it was time to replace the batteries on Still Waters II. The house battery bank had a few bad cells and the batteries were not holding a charge at all. After pulling the batteries from the engine compartment the skipper checked the date on the existing batteries. They were vintage 2002 batteries. Yes, new batteries certainly were needed.
After a two day maintenance and upkeep period the crew was ready to shove off and tackle the obstacles of completing the Erie canal, completing the Oswego Canal, crossing Lake Ontario, cruising the 1000 Islands, and then head down bound on the St Lawrence River.
Day 8 Erie and Oswego Canal
The crew only had a mile to travel to the last lock on the eastern Erie Canal. Lock E23 dropped our crew 7’ along with a sailboat. After exiting the lock, Still Waters II passed the sailboat and headed to the three rivers junction. At this junction, the boater can turn left and continue on the western Erie Canal or turn right and head up the Oswego River to Lake Ontario.
Our crew has decided to make the right turn and head north to Lake Ontario. The main reason is that there are some 15.5 foot bridges on the western Erie that Still Waters II cannot sail under.
Construction on the Oswego Canal started in 1826 and the canal was open for traffic in 1828. In 1917, the old canal was abandoned and the canal moved into the Oswego River since most ships were now self-propelled. This marked the end of an era for the mule drawn canal boats.
The cruise down the river required negotiating 6 locks that dropped the crew 114 feet. The crew tried a new strategy for fender placement around the boat today. The big change was hanging a fender horizontal along the rub rail at amidships. The new strategy worked to perfection and the crew had no issues while locking today.
The crew stopped along the Lock wall north of Lock 7 and just south of Lock 8. If the weather is good in the morning the plan will be to go through lock 8 and then head out into Lake Ontario. About halfway across the lake, the crew will turn to starboard and work their way through the thousand islands and eventually dock in Clayton, NY.
An interesting sailboat with a rich history was at the Lock O7 Wall, the ‘When and If.’ The boat was built for General Patton and was named When and If based on the following famous line:
“When the war is over, and If I live through it, Bea and I are going to sail her around the world.”
– General George S. Patton
Click on WHEN and IF to go to a link to learn more about the vessel and its current mission to fulfil the dream of the General since the original goal died with him in 1945.
The skipper dreams of circumnavigating the globe someday. The Great Loop is training for the crew and for the Admiral to get used to cruising without land in site. As she grows her sea legs, the skipper gets to cruise around while the Admiral can see land most of the time.
Crossing Lake Ontario
With a good weather window and low wind, the crossing of Lake Ontario was a non-event. Four boats entered Lock O8 at 0800. After the drop of 10 feet, the gate opened and the four boats headed to the break waters for the Lake. Mascot is the trawler on the left and that is a mast-less 26 foot McGregor sailboat doing the loop on the right below.
Around 1130, and near the Gallo Islands, the skipper noticed that part of the chart was whited out and showed no data. After about 15 minutes of trying to figure out what the heck was happening, the skipper finally realized that the white out was Canadian waters. The computer chip in the chart plotter was a US only chip.
The Admiral took over the helm and the skipper went down below to go and get the Canadian chip. To the skippers’ surprise, there was no Canadian chip. However, he does have two Bahama chips, one of which should have been a Canadian chip. Oh well, the skipper has a couple of days to develop a solution to the problem since the crew will not officially enter Canadian waters till then.
Lake Ontario was beautiful. The water and surrounding area was absolutely gorgeous.
One area that caught the skipper’s eye was Fuller Bay. There was a white lighthouse overlooking the bay.
At about 1330, the crew exited the Lake and entered the head waters of the St Lawrence River. While running this river mostly in an easterly direction, Canada was on the north side of the boat and the US was on the south side of the river. The crew only went about 15 miles on the St Lawrence River before pulling into the transient docks at Clayton, NY.
After docking, the skipper tried to find a Canada chip in town, but the effort was not rewarded with the desired outcome of a new chip. Once he exhausted all avenues, the crew decided to walk the waterfront.
St Lawrence River, mile 15 to 63
The crew timed their departure from the dock so that they would arrive at Boldt Castle around noon. When the crew arrived, there were several small boats tied along the dock. The skipper only saw one spot that Still Waters II might fit. The spot was between a bass boat and a pontoon boat. He pulled up between the two boats and determined he had at least five feet of clearance. The folks in the bass boat had just arrived and were getting out of their boat. They stuck around to help the crew dock and make sure their little bass boat survived.
The Admiral threw a bow line over to the bass boat. They cleated the line just behind their boat. The skipper then put the port engine in reverse and slid Still Waters II up against the dock. The bow pulpit was overhanging the bass boat, and the swim platform on the stern was about five feet from the pontoon boat. A perfect fit.
The crew spent about three hours on their shore excursion in and around the grounds at Boldt Castle. The short story is that the wife died in January 1904. The scheduled completion and grand opening was scheduled for February 14. With the death of his wife, George Boldt suspended all work on the Castle. He never stepped foot back on the Island and allowed the Castle to fall into disrepair. The Castle has been undergoing restoration since about 1978, and they have almost completed the task.
In case you were wondering who and the heck is George Boldt? Well, he was the man behind the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. His hotel chef invented Thousand Island Salad Dressing. He introduced room service to the hotel industry and he coined the phrase: “the customer is always right.”
After departing the Castle, the crew travelled further east through the ‘thousand Islands’ and passed another famous Castle – the Singer Castle. The Singer Castle only does tours on the weekends this time of year so the crew passed by and did not stop.
After four additional hours of cruising, the crew finally stopped at 1945 at a little town called Ogdensburg. It is actually the oldest incorporated town in New York. It also happens to be the home of the Remington Art Museum. The crew will visit the museum in the morning and then set sail up the St Lawrence River.
St Lawrence River, mile 63 to 100
The crew enjoyed the shore excursion to the Remington Art Museum. The museum is located in an old house that Mrs. Remington lived in after the death of Frederic Remington. The widow left all their belongings to the city of Ogdensburg.
The museum has the world’s largest collection of Remington artwork. The museum was good but the house was better. The home has had its share of interesting owners. Along with showcasing Remington’s work, the museum tells the story of his life. In one upstairs room, the story of the house is told, and an interesting story indeed. The home was originally built by a man who migrated from Europe. He spent his life fortune (28 million dollars) trying to make a go of it in upstate New York. He purchased 200,000 acres of property and built the home that now houses the Remington museum. He eventually returned to his homeland, tried and failed at other businesses, and eventually committed suicide by jumping off of a bridge.
A nephew took ownership of the property and home. The nephew did well in the states and at his death the property was sold at auction to the third owner. However, the nephew caused a huge stir in the tiny community when he won a ‘Lady Friend’ in a gambling game. The new owners moved in and raised their family here, eventually selling the property to George Hall. George was friends with the Remington’s, and allowed the widow Remington to live in the home until her death.
After the museum, the crew went and had lunch at a local diner that was highly recommended by some local boaters. The food was good and the price was better. But it was now time to shove off and head down river.
The skipper was met with a surprise when he looked down in the engine room to perform pre-engine checks. Seems he left the oil fill cap off of the starboard engine after adding oil yesterday. Oil splatter was everywhere. After an hour delay cleaning up his mess, the skipper went to start the engines and the starboard engine did not even make a sound.
The skipper went back down in the engine room to look around. Since the engine made no noise what so ever, the skipper reasoned that the problem had to be electrical. Right above the oil fill are a bunch of wire terminations. While cleaning these wires, the skipper must have loosened one of the connections because he found one loose termination. He tightened the one wire and the engine started right up and ran well all day.
Once on the water the crew had to figure out how to lock through the Iroqoiuis Lock. They initially tied up on the port side commercial wall while they looked for the pleasure boat dock. About the time they saw the proper dock, a Canadian came up and pointed out the dock also.
The crew moved the boat over to the starboard pleasure craft dock and the skipper went up to a little cage area. He purchased the lock permit and talked on the phone with the lock master. The lock master gave them a green light and they passed through the lock. This was very anticlimactic because they were only lowered about 4 inches. The lock master did give the crew a booklet that explains the next six locks.
After passing out of the lock, the crew set sail for the Croil Islands to find an anchorage near Talcotts Point.
St Lawrence River, mile 100 to 152
Saturday, June 18, 2016, was the one year anniversary of our crew moving aboard Still Waters II. What a year it has been. I would like to thank everyone who has also come aboard as a virtual crew member to share in this epic adventure. Count Dracula has been keeping up with the numbers and is glad to report the following stats:
Through it all, the crew has actually developed some good seamanship skills. It is pretty awesome to see how far they have come onboard Still Waters II. Who would of thunk it.
On today’s journey, the crew experienced some more Boat FOG (favor of God). After pulling anchor the crew headed to the Eisenhower Lock. The locks on the St Lawrence Seaway are used mainly for commercial traffic. They reluctantly allow pleasure craft to also use the locks. However, the vessel must be at least 20 feet in length.
The skipper had called ahead and found that up bound commercial traffic would also arrive at the lock at 0920 and 1020. The goal was to try and make the lock so that the crew could enter between the two commercial vessels headed toward Lake Ontario.
When Still Waters II arrived at the lock, the first vessel was preparing to leave the lock. The lock master told our crew to head over to an area south of the channel and wait till after the 1020 vessel left the lock and he would then allow the crew to lock through. The crew did as directed. While heading to the holding area south of the channel, the lock master radioed back and gave directions to enter the lock after the 0920 vessel was clear of the lock.
He had changed his mind and would allow Still Waters II to lock down on the turnaround as the lock master prepared the lock for the arriving 1020 vessel.
Inside the lock, the crew found a new experience. This lock has floating bollards recessed into the lock wall.
The technique used to lock down is to cleat a line on the bow, pass the line around the bollard, and then make the line fast to the original cleat. Then do the same thing with a stern line.
Once the boat was attached to the bollard the lock master started to drain the chamber. It was a ten minute ride down 42 feet in the lock. The lock master opened the gate and Still Waters II exited and passed the arriving 1020 vessel.
Three miles down river, the crew passed through the Snell Lock and was lowered an additional 42 feet. Many people had warned the crew that delays can take up to four hours just to get in the locks. Our crew managed to clear both locks in less than an hour. Now that is Boat FOG.
Another interesting milestone was when the crew crossed the 45 degree parallel. At this point, the crew is half way between the north pole and the equator.
And finally, the crew passed out of American waters and into Canadian waters at navigational aide, green 1. There are some old customs about entering countries via the water. The vessel displays a yellow flag on the bow of the vessel until the ship clears customs. The yellow flag is called a quarantine flag. The name and color go back to the days of immigration and the yellow fever scares. The yellow flag was a declaration that no crew or passengers were sick.
Still Waters II was fitted with a yellow flag as she entered Canadian waters. When she and the crew clear customs, the yellow flag will be replaced with a small Canadian Curtesy flag. They have moved the AGLCA Burgee to the port antenna while in Canadian waters.
When the crew arrived at Valleyfield to take a marina and to clear customs, the crew was a bit surprised to find that the 400 slip marina was completely full. This is hard to believe because the crew could see empty slips, but those boats could be out on the water and expected to return later. This is a very busy pleasure boating center.
There is a steady stream of pleasure boats leaving and arriving. The skipper thinks maybe that some of the problem on getting a slip is the language barrier between these French speaking Canadians and his Texas dialog.
So with no slip available, the crew motored over to an area north of town and dropped anchor for the night.
Or so they thought.
The skipper was tired when they first dropped anchor so he laid down and took a short nap. When he woke up he began searching for the phone number to call Canadian Customs and to phone in the crew’s arrival since they could not check-in at the marina. He called the phone number at 1930 and started a strange chain of events.
As expected, the customs agent asked for boat documentation information, passenger information, and passport information. This was consistent with the others who had phoned in upon arrival in Canada. The other thing that is usual is for the customs agent to thank you and tell you to have a nice trip while in Canada. This would not be so for our crew.
Somewhere during the questioning, the customs agent inquired about the skipper’s middle name by calling him David Charles Fuller. The skipper denied that Charles was his middle name and stated that his middle name was Wayne. After this exchange, the customs agent asked a few more questions and put the skipper on ignore. After about 5 more minutes the customs agent returned and informed the skipper that he needed to report to Creg Quay Marina for an 2030 appointment with Border Control. The skipper mentioned that it was getting late and would be dark soon. The customs agent said the crew could pull anchor and return to American waters (3-4 hours away) or report to Creg Quay Marina, the choice was his. The skipper said he would report to the marina.
After hanging up the phone, the skipper grabbed the charts to figure out where the marina was located. Yikes! The marina is 14 miles back west. The skipper does not know much but he does know that he cannot make the 14 miles by 2030. He called the customs agent back and informed the agent of the time problem. The customs agent was kind enough to move the appointment all the way to 2100. The skipper mentioned that he probably could not make that either but would call back with an estimated time of arrival once they got out in the channel. The customs agent agreed and requested a call back once they determined their arrival time.
After scurrying around and making sure the boat was ready to go the Admiral manned the helm while the skipper hauled the anchor. Of course the area where the boat was anchored was saturated with weed growth, so it took longer than normal to get the anchor up without 2 bales of weeds.
With the anchor finally up it was to miles to the main channel at a slow speed due to all the other boaters returning to the marina at the end of the day. In some places, the channel was only wide enough for one boat at a time. Once they reached the main channel the skipper increased speed to 10 knots and determined that they should arrive about 2200. The skipper then called the customs agent back and he graciously changed the appointment to 2200. He also commented that the Boarder Control Agents would meet the crew at the dock.
With a little more Boat FOG, the crew enjoyed a beautiful sunset and a nearly full moon that helped them see in the dark as they made way to Creg Quay. After traveling 10 miles in the main channel, the skipper turned towards the marina for the final 2 miles of the journey.
Unfortunately, these markers were not lit and impossible to see. The Admiral was providing the Look Out while the skipper basically steered by watching the chart plotter. He also kept looking up to try and see the markers that led to the marina. The crew batted 100% and did not see a single one of the 7 pair of markers on the way into the marina. The skipper later learned from a local that the markers are not actually in the water, just show on the electronic and paper charts. The US is also testing the idea of virtual navigational aides. After navigating in the dark, the skipper has decided he does not like virtual buoys.
Once they arrived at the Marina entrance they discovered that it was a bit narrow and shallow. The Skipper made 4 attempts to enter the marina but was met with 4 foot 1 inch water each time. With a 3 foot 9 in drat this is not the margin of safety that the skipper likes. The skipper finally backed the boat into some 10 foot water and called the customs agent to report the dilemma. The customs agent put the skipper on ignore once again, and returned with more instructions after about 5 minutes.
The customs agent said the Canadian Border Patrol could see the crew was having trouble getting into the marina and requested to talk to the crew directly. With an exchange of phone numbers, the crew made contact with the Canadian Border Patrol at 2215. The Border Patrol informed the skipper that they had gotten a retired police officer to come out on a jet ski to lead the skipper into the marina. Sure enough in a few minutes a little jet ski with a big white light appeared.
Captain Jet Ski told the skipper that the channel was wide enough for the boat to get through. The Admiral informed Captain Jet Ski that they knew it was wide enough, the problem was that it was not deep enough. He assured the crew that it was actually deep enough and to just follow the white light.
With great reservation the skipper started to follow Captain Jet Ski into the marina at a snails pace. When the chart plotter got to 4 feet 1 inch again the sphincter muscle tightened and a few prayers were lifted up. The skipper continued to just bump the engines forward a little at a time. After moving forward about 20 yards the depth finally started to get better until the boat was floating in 6 foot of water. Captain Jet Ski then pointed them to a dock and instructed the crew to tie up.
It is never good to draw a crowd when docking, but by now a small crowd had formed to see what all the commotion was about. The boat directly behind where they wanted the skipper to dock turned his stern lights on while the boat owner in front came out with a flashlight and was shining the light on his bow.
The skipper managed to get close enough to the dock that the Admiral tossed a line over. A gentleman grabbed the line and helped pull the boat over. He continually kept saying, “Go slow, take your time, you can do this.” After getting tied up to the dock, the skipper learned that the gentleman was the owner of the boat behind Still Waters II with the whole 3 foot of clearance between the two boats.
After docking, two Border Patrol Agents then stepped forward and boarded the boat. They informed the crew that normal procedure was to have the crew leave the boat while they searched it, but they were making an exception and allowing us to stay aboard. One agent went below decks to search the vessel while the other agent stood between the crew and the exit on the sun deck. Hmmm.
The agent on the sun deck then opened a brief case, removed a file, then removed a sheet of paper from the file. He then pulled out his flashlight so he could read the paper, and then asked the skipper the following question, “What is your national number?”
The skipper replied, “do you mean my Social Security Number?” Of all the questions this guy could ask that question was totally unexpected.
Border Agent, “yes.” The skipper rattled off the social security number and was starting to think thoughts of what the heck is going on here.
The Border Agent then reopened the brief case and carefully filed the sheet of paper back in the rightful file. He closed the brief case and then asked to see the passports. The crew handed over both passports. The first one he opened was Claudia’s. He closed it and set it aside. Then he opened David’s and gave it a good look over. Looking up and comparing the picture to the person standing in front of him. After a long pregnant pause he finally asked if the skipper had ever been in Canada before. You could start to feel the tension leave the boat as a normal conversation started to unfold.
After completely searching the boat, the agents stamped the crew’s passports and wished them a great journey and good time while in Canada. But, before the agents got off the boat the skipper had a few questions for them. He mentioned that most boaters reported that they just had to phone in to clear customs and he asked if the crew had done something inappropriate.
The Agent responded that nothing was wrong, that down around Kingston (where most boaters report in at) that they do not have enough agents to check the vessels so they do the phone only method most of the time. However, up here they have more agents and can take the time to visually search. (That did not pass the common sense test. Why not redeploy agents where they are needed. hmmm)
The skipper then pried a little more and found that the reason they wanted the boat to come to Creg Quay was because they did not have any jurisdiction up where the boat was in Valleyfield. (interesting word – jurisdiction). And with that, the Border Agents left. The skipper checked the time and it was now 2330. What a strange 4 hours since placing a phone call to Canadian Customs.
The crew talked amongst themselves and have concluded that they must have been looking for a David Charles Fuller. Our skipper will just add this to the ever growing list of humorous stories about mistaken Dave Fuller’s. Such as the bank lost paycheck, the $6,000 relocation check when he had not moved, the American Express business travel card fiasco (every time a certain Dave Fuller used his travel card for business, our skipper’s travel card got charged.), and the miss understanding of identity between the skipper and a verbose poster to the AGLCA forum who is named Dave Fuller and lives in Marietta, Georgia.
And what used to be his favorite, the wedding dress story. Yes, a wedding dress showed up from UPS in a box at work. UPS delivered the box to the company mail room. The mail room called and informed the skipper that he had a package for pickup. Since he was not expecting anything, this got the best of his curiosity so he walked over to the mailroom and received his package. He returned to his office to open the package. To his chagrin, he opened the package with an audience. When he pulled out the wedding dress in front of the crowd of ex-sailors (oh, did I mention he was single at the time) the ribbing began.
There was actually a receipt in the box from a cleaner’s in Granbury, TX about 7 miles north of the power plant. The skipper called the cleaners. They were happy to hear from him. Seems the dress had been missing for 6 weeks and the wedding was scheduled for the weekend. The bride was informed and drove out to pick up her dress. Turns out the groom’s name was – Dave Fuller. The mystery of how the dress left the cleaners, got in a box mailed to a nuclear power plant, and eventually landing on Dave Fuller’s desk remains a mystery.
But as with the Customs story, all is well that ends well.
Story Update – when the skipper went to pay the marina for the nights dockage the clerk was intrigued by the story. Seems the crew is the talk of the marina this fine Sunday morning. She informed the skipper that there is an active smuggling ring that the authorities are trying to catch. Both sides of the border are working to catch those involved. She explained that is why there are more agents up here rather than closer to the border. Interesting, interesting indeed. However, she did give the crew free dockage for Saturday night (more Boat FOG) and only charged for the Sunday night stay.
In the coming week the crew will make way to Montreal. Come back next week to catch up on the unfolding adventure aboard Still Waters II.
The water goes on forever and the adventure never ends……….
Eric the Red