Fenelon Falls to Orillia

Fenelon Falls to Orillia

Something that had puzzled us since we arrived in Canada was the frequent reference to ‘loonies’. We imagined that they were some sort of token, as there would be notices saying ‘loonies only’ in places like laundromats. A lady in the laundromat at Fenelon Falls enlightened us. Loonies are dollar coins, with the Queen on the front and a loon, an aquatic diving bird, on the back.

‘Of course, we have toonies too,’ she told us. ‘The two-dollar coin. They have a bear on the back, so we say they have the Queen on the front, with a bear behind.’

It was our first sample of Canadian humour and it felt just very slightly disloyal, to be laughing at our monarch’s expense.

We had breakfast at a restaurant overlooking the lock, recommended by the woman in the next boat who had saved the crew’s face the previous day. It was a sort of peace-offering, from the Captain.

We had been wondering what peameal, which seems to feature on all breakfast menus in Canada, might be. I had had a best-forgotten experience with grits in Charleston, and suspected that peameal might be something similar. But it turned out to be lean Canadian bacon, thick-cut like gammon, and delicious.

The channel at Fenelon Falls

The channel at Fenelon Falls

The channel which leads away from the lock at Fenelon Falls is very narrow, with rocks lurking just below the surface on either side, and it was a relief to be out into the open waters of Cameron Lake.

Cameron Lake

Cameron Lake

Looking back to the beach at Fenelon Falls

Looking back to the beach at Fenelon Falls

The day alternated between beautiful sparkling lakes and stretches of the Trent Canal, some very narrow. At Rosedale Lock, the lock-keeper warned us that after Balsam Lake, we would have to call on the radio to make sure that there weren’t any boats on the canal coming in the opposite direction, because the channel wasn’t wide enough to allow two boats to pass each other. There was a small incident of potential canal rage when one boater felt he had been unfairly kept waiting to go through, but it didn’t involve us.

The Trent Canal at the top of Balsam Lake

The Trent Canal at the top of Balsam Lake

Trent Canal, top of Balsam Lake

Trent Canal, top of Balsam Lake

 

Mitchell Lake

Mitchell Lake

The stretch of the Trent Canal beyond Mitchell Lake contained the Kirkfield Lift Lock, and  was the highest point on the waterway. The lock was built to the same design as the Peterborough Lift Lock, but the height is only 49′. It was still quite awe-inspiring though, to see the land, and our westward journey, stretching away from us as we waited for the lock to descend.

At the top of Kirkfield Lift Lock

At the top of Kirkfield Lift Lock

In the lift lock, going down

In the lift lock, going down

The next big thing was Lake Simcoe, a few miles further down the straight stretch of the Trent Canal. Although not as large as Lake Ontario, Simcoe is subject to capricious weather patterns and comes with a serious health warning. So we had to wait for a suitable weather window to present itself, keeping one eye on the fact that we needed to be across the lake and in Orillia in time to pick up a hire car to meet Liz and Nick in Toronto the following Tuesday night.

By now, the weather was sweltering. It was being described on the radio as a ‘heat event’ for the Kawartha Lakes area. Strong winds and thunderstorms were forecast and we tied up at Lock 39 to sit it out. There was no power available on the lock wall, which meant that we couldn’t have the air-con on inside the boat, without running the generator. There were some other boats tied up too and we didn’t like to disturb them. So a hot, sticky night passed rather uncomfortably. The next day the winds and heat persisted but the thunderstorms didn’t materialise until the middle of the night, when we woke to the sound of heavy rain and a welcome drop in temperature.

Although it was grey and raining, the winds weren’t too bad the next day, so we took a calculated risk and set off. The area around Portage Lock was agricultural and the scene not unlike many wet mornings on English canals.

Portage Lock 39 in the rain

Portage Lock 39 in the rain

It was a good move. The 15-mile crossing of Lake Simcoe took only 2 hours as the wind was behind us. We were able to skirt round the northern shore,  passing through the Atherley Narrows before tying up at Bridgeport Marina, feeling rather guilty at the sight of the dockhands getting drenched as they helped us moor the boat.

We celebrated our safe arrival with bacon and pancakes with maple syrup, and were just tucking in when there was a knock on the door, a visit from some fellow Loopers, Susannah and Tim, who had passed us at Fenelon Falls, and who kindly invited us to their boat for a drink later on. It’s always good to meet people and compare experiences.

Evening at Bridgeport Marina

Evening at Bridgeport Marina

We moved round the corner to the town dock in Orillia the next day.

Some other Loopers at Bridgeport were spending the week there, having their props repaired after  a contretemps with some rocks just outside Orillia Harbour. We listened to their cautionary tale and took their advice ‘on board’.

 

 

 

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Peterborough to Fenelon Falls

Someone said to us that the Trent-Severn Waterway got even more beautiful, the further up you went. This observation was certainly borne out, as we gained height and the terrain changed from the limestone areas to granite as we moved north and west. The waterway twists and turns through clear, sparkling rivers and lakes, with the locks mainly situated in charming small towns and villages.

Beach at Beavermead Park, Little Lake, Peterborough

Beach at Beavermead Park, Little Lake, Peterborough

Peterborough Marina and Waterfront

Peterborough Marina and Waterfront

Peterborough to Fenelon Falls

Peterborough to Fenelon Falls

Peterborough is a lively city and as it was a Saturday night, there was a free musicfest concert in the Millennial Park next to the marina. We went along after dinner to find a large crowd of several thousand already enjoying the show. The group, Spoons, had clearly enjoyed the big time in Canada in the 80s, and had a faithful and enthusiastic following, although we had never heard of them and their music, a little disappointingly, wasn’t of our era.

Spoons performing at Peterborough Musicfest

Spoons performing at Peterborough Musicfest

But the next day, on our way back from reconnoitring the famous Peterborough Lift Lock, and a swim at Rogers Cove on Little Lake, we passed the Holiday Inn where a group called Gunslingers were entertaining ageing rockers and dollybirds while they drank their Sunday afternoon beers and cocktails on the patio overlooking the lake. We definitely fitted the demographic and left the bikes outside, had a beer, and even joined in the dancing.

Approaching Lock 20, Peterborough

Approaching Lock 20, Peterborough

There are two locks at Peterborough, Locks 20 and 21. Lock 21 is the  Peterborough Lift Lock, regarded still as an engineering marvel. Two adjacent holding tanks simultaneously move in opposite directions, to take boats up and down the lock.  No electric power is used and the lock works simply by the weight of water in the upper tank being greater than that of the lower one. The lift is 65 ft – at the time it was built, in 1904, it was the largest structure in the world to be built from unreinforced concrete. It is very quick too – the ascent took only a couple of minutes.

Approaching Peterborough Lift Lock

Approaching Peterborough Lift Lock

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Peterborough Lift lock from the footpath

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Another view from the footpath

At the top of the Lift Lock

At the top of the Lift Lock

 

Ian liked this bridge near Trent University.

Bridge at Trent University

Bridge at Trent University

Waterlilies above Lock 22

Waterlilies above Lock 22

Looking back to Lock 25, Sawer Creek

Looking back to Lock 25, Sawer Creek

Above Sawer Creek, Lock 25

Above Sawer Creek, Lock 25

After several more locks, we tied up at Lakefield, and it was so hot we had a swim from the boat in the narrow channel above the lock.

Just above the lock at Lakefield

Just above the lock at Lakefield

Lakefield was a pioneer settlement established in the 1820s by Col Strickland, whose two sisters, Catherine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie later joined him. They were both writers and their books The Backwoods of Canada (1836) and Roughing it in the Bush (1852) sound like interesting reading. Many old houses remain.

Regent St, Lakefield

Regent St, Lakefield

16 Albert St, Lakefield

16 Albert St, Lakefield

This house was built by JC Sherin and was owned by the family until the 1980s.

We decided to eat at the Canoe and Paddle, a British-owned pub, despite usually avoiding such places when we’re away. The owners had written the menu in a jokey sort of style, presumably to differentiate their clientele from that of their rivals, the Cassis Bistro, which offered ‘gourmet dishes and fine dining’ and which we did not feel quite up to.

We settled on ‘Fingerlickin’ Chicken Curry – England’s national dish!’ and it fell to our charming waitress to regretfully advise us that they had run out of their Madras with coconut sauce, but we could have Red Thai instead. That did not have quite the same appeal, so Ian decided on haddock and chips, and I ordered a Taco Bowl with pulled pork, remembering just in time to pronounce it Tarko and not Tayko, which seems counter-intuitive to a northern British ear. The food, when it came, was very good.

The river at Lakefield in the evening

The river at Lakefield in the evening

Another of Lakefield’s claims to fame is that Prince Andrew attended a private school there, and an island in Lake Katchewanooka, just above Lakefield, bears his name.

Prince Andrew Island, Lakefield

Prince Andrew Island, Lakefield

Lakefield Beach

Lakefield Beach

The Kawartha Lakes area is reputedly the most beautiful part of the waterway. Over the next two days we travelled through lakes and rivers of crystal clear water, stopping at Buckhorn Lake and then Fenelon Falls. The area is a popular holiday destination for Canadians, and there are many cottages on the shoreline, but for the most part they are unobtrusive and don’t detract from the loveliness of the scenery.

Katchewanooka Lake, Lakefield

Katchewanooka Lake, Lakefield

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

Lovesick Lake

Lovesick Lake

Lower Buckhorn Lake

Lower Buckhorn Lake

Buckhorn Lake

Buckhorn Lake in the morning

Bob Channel, Bobcaygeon

Bob Channel, Bobcaygeon

Bobcaygeon is a popular place and we had quite an audience at the lock there.

Leaving Bobcaygeon Lock

Leaving Bobcaygeon Lock

Arriving at Fenelon Falls

Arriving at Fenelon Falls

The Lock Wall, Fenelon Falls

The Lock Wall, Fenelon Falls

We were lucky to get a space on the lock wall at Fenelon Falls, as that too is a popular place for boaters to overnight. Not only did a boat vacate a space just as we emerged from the lock, but a nice woman from the next boat appeared on the dock to take the mooring rope, which was just as well, as the crew had not been having a very good day. At the previous lock, we had to wait some time for the lock to empty, and the Captain had had to turn the boat round three times in a confined area before the crew succeeded in securing a rope round the bollard, and even then only with the help of a passerby.

The Captain was not best pleased with this display of crew rope-throwing incompetence, but Fenelon Falls had an ice-cream shop which sold the famous Kawartha Lakes Dairy Ice-cream, and a cornet went some way to restoring his good humour.

 

 

 

The Trent-Severn Waterway – Trenton to Peterborough

The Trent-Severn Waterway has a quite different feel from the Erie Canal. It has a different history too – whereas the Erie Canal was built for a specific purpose, to improve trade for America’s Mid-West, the Trent-Severn was gradually developed over 90 years and not finally completed till 1920, when its potential for providing  hydro-electric power for Ontario was realised. It’s also a great and well-used recreational resource and holiday destination, promoted and marketed as such by Parks Canada who manage it.

Trenton to Peterborough

Trenton to Peterborough

Its 240 miles stretch from Trenton on Lake Ontario, to Port Severn on Georgian Bay in Lake Huron, and pass through man-made canals, rivers and lakes, reaching a height of 870 ft above sea-level at the highest point. Unlike the Erie Canal, the locks are all manually operated, but not, as in England, by the boaters themselves.  Each lock is staffed by two or three people, many of them students doing a summer vacation job, but all friendly and helpful. The lock surroundings are well kept, with little gardens and picnic areas, and facilities for boaters to tie up overnight on the lock walls. The lock-keepers phone ahead to the next lock to let them know boaters are on their way, so that the locks are usually ready when you arrive.

After leaving Trenton, the waterway starts off as a wide river, but narrows into a channel as it rises steeply through a series of six locks that are only about a mile apart, so our first morning was quite a busy one. At the first lock we had to tie up and pay for our seasonal one-way permit and for the lock-keeper to give us various tips and information on good places to stay – which lock walls got busy, which had power and so forth.

start of the channel leading to Lock 1

 

Approaching Lock1

Approaching Lock 1

The dam at Lock 4

The dam at Lock 4

This dam at Lock 4 was one of the many along the route providing hydro-electric power.

Leaving lock 4

Leaving lock 4

Our first stop was at Frankford at Lock 6, and we had time for a bike ride down an old railway track and a beer at Dimitri’s restaurant, then in the morning had another little treat with breakfast at the Oasis Restaurant. It would never occur to me to go out for breakfast at home, but on the boat it’s pleasant to have an early morning stroll in the sunshine before it gets too hot, and have a sustaining meal before a long cruise.

From Frankford Lock, 8 am

From Frankford Lock, 8 am

Oasis Restaurant, Frankford

Oasis Restaurant, Frankford

Above Frankford the canal joins the main Trent River and widens out. Our next stop was at Percy Reach, just above Lock 8.

Leaving Frankford

Leaving Frankford Lock behind us

Above Lock 7

Above Lock 7

Lock 8 in the evening

Lock 8 in the evening

Evening at Lock 8

Evening at Lock 8

Approaching Lock 10

Approaching Lock 10

Below Campbellford, there is a deep ravine in the limestone where the Trent River goes into the Ranney Falls. Below the falls, the canal takes a sharp left and goes into locks 11 and 12 – these form a double lock, so that as soon as you emerge from lock 11, you are straight into lock 12 without any intervening ‘pound’. Both the locks are deep, so that from the top there is quite a dramatic view of the surrounding country.

Just above Lock 10

Just above Lock 10

Lock 11 and Ranney Suspension Bridge

Lock 11 and Ranney Suspension Bridge

Lock 11 and 12

Locks 11 and 12

After the lock there was a straight run into Campbellford, where we tied up at the dock wall in Old Mill Park.

The approach to Campbellford above Lock 12

The approach to Campbellford above Lock 12

We  took the bikes back down the trail to get a better view of the ravine and falls, which run parallel to the canal and hadn’t been visible from the confines of the locks. The suspension bridge across the gorge was paid for by public subscription and leads to a preserved park area.

Ranney Suspension Bridge, Campbellford

Ranney Suspension Bridge, Campbellford

 

Ranney Gorge, Trent River

Ranney Gorge, Trent River

Ranney Falls, Campbellford

Ranney Falls, Campbellford

 

View from the top of Lock 12

View from the top of Lock 12

The visitor centre next to the dock had a little herb and vegetable garden, and the staff were delighted to share their produce with boaters. So it was omelettes aux fines herbes for dinner, and Greek salad with fresh oregano for lunch the next day.

In the evening, there was another free concert in the park next to the dock – country music this time.

Old Mill Park from the dock, showing the bandstand

Old Mill Park from the dock, showing the bandstand

Campbellford Downtown from the dock

Campbellford Downtown from the dock

The next day we intended to anchor out somewhere quiet and peaceful, but it had become so hot that we decided to go all the way to Hastings, so we could stay in a marina with access to a power supply and  be able to  have the air-con on. Wimpish perhaps, but it’s one thing having temperatures of 35C during the day, when you are cruising along in an open boat,  and another trying to sleep at night in a small cabin. On the way, we anchored in the lovely Seymour Lake and had a swim from the boat.

We followed another boat for part of the way and regrettably, the Captain indulged in a little schadenfreude watching the other captain mess up going into one lock, and not realising the lock gate was actually open, causing significant delay, at another.

Following Changing Latitudes into the lock

Following Changing Latitudes into the lock. One of the many hydro-electric stations en route

Locks 14 and 15 were another double lock.

View from Lock 15

View from Lock 15

 Seymour Lake

Seymour Lake

The municipal  marina at Hastings is next to Pisces Park, a community development that was opened only on 30 June, 2016. The vision is ‘to create Pisces Park as a cultural space with a series  of fish sculptures of the types of fish found in the Trent River’ and at present, only the first of these, Pisces Pete, by Canadian artist Bill Lishman,  has been installed. The name was chosen ‘via a community contest’. Shades of Boaty McBoatface, but Pisces Pete certainly has impact.

Pisces Park, Hastings

Pisces Park, Hastings

Pisces Pete

Pisces Pete

Between the water’s edge and the mown grass areas, native perennial flowering plants have been sown, both to enhance  the view and the help stop erosion of the river bank.

River bank, Pisces Park

River bank, Pisces Park

From Hastings, the river widens into Rice Lake, and half-way down the lake the waterway takes a turn right into the Otonabee River, which winds its way to Peterborough. The town is actually on Little Lake, a bulge in the river.

Trent River between Hastings and Rice Lake

Trent River between Hastings and Rice Lake

Entrance to the Otonabee River from Rice Lake

Entrance to the Otonabee River from Rice Lake

The fountain in Little Lake at Peterborough

The fountain in Little Lake at Peterborough

The Captain got his come-uppance trying to dock at Peterborough, and it was not Carina’s finest hour either. By the time we arrived, there was a strong wind blowing. We were instructed by the marina staff to go to a finger dock, adjacent to another boat, which involved Carina making a sharp 90 degree turn to starboard.

Carina does not do 90 degree turns. She has a single screw engine and no bow thrusters. She stops at 45 degrees and won’t do what she’s told in reverse, either. In strong winds, she goes into toy-throwing mode.

The young marina staff were unfailingly polite, courteous and encouraging, but eventually gave in and let us go on a T-dock, which involved only driving up to somewhere near enough for mooring ropes to be thrown to the waiting dock staff.

Later, morale was restored when we had Rob, Jay and Mary-Jo round for drinks. They are Gold Loopers, which means they’ve done it all before, and we first met them back in Oswego.  They too have a Marine Trader just like Carina. Jay told Ian that he wouldn’t  have even attempted trying to put the boat into a finger dock. Instead, rather than waiting for marina staff to tell him where to dock, he tells them where he wants to go.

We pick up useful snippets all the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada – Prinyers Cove to Trenton

‘We’re in Canadian waters now,’  said the Captain, as if this would somehow ameliorate the symptoms of acute motion sickness I’d been suffering from ever since we left Oswego Harbour, five hours previously. I said something unsuitable for recording in a blog which one day might be read by my grandchildren.

But after a while, I realised that Carina was not rolling  so violently, and I could see land. And it looked quite pretty.

After we had safely docked, a further olive branch was proffered with the announcement that he would be happy to have salad for tea, to save me the bother of having to cook. By this time I was feeling so much better that I didn’t respond with the barbed retort that in retrospect, might have been deserved.

Oswego to Trenton

Oswego to Trenton

Prinyers Cove, our first stop in Canada, is a small inlet in the Bay of Quinte, which separates the north shore of Lake Ontario from Prince Edward County.

Ian’s first job was to phone the Canadian Customs with details of the boat, how long we were going to be in Canada, our passport numbers, and how much alcohol we had on board. Canada is quite strict about alcohol, which can be purchased only at Beer Stores or LCBOs, outlets of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, forbidding, windowless places that appear not to invite custom. I couldn’t help wondering whether alcohol-related crime in the UK might not be reduced, if we placed similar restrictions on where alcohol could be bought.

Prinyers Cove was a delightful haven after the horrors of Lake Ontario, and on our first full day in Canada we travelled only a few miles to an anchorage near Adoplhus.

Leaving Prinyers Cove

Leaving Prinyers Cove

Carina at Adolphus

Carina at Adolphus

There was a sandy beach nearby, part of a national park, and we took the dinghy across to the public jetty and had a swim.

The beach at Adolphus

The beach at Adolphus

The area was settled in the 1780s by the United Empire Loyalists who fled the USA after the Revolutionary Wars, and the park contains a batteau(sic) of the type used by the early settlers to travel through the lake. The flag  of the United Empire Loyalists  is shown on the boat.

Loyalist Batteau, Adolphus

Loyalist Batteau, Adolphus

Sunset from the mooring at Adophus

Sunset from the mooring at Adolphus

We passed through the Bay of Quinte, where there appeared to be some sort of power-boat racing going on.

Bay of Quinte

Bay of Quinte

Racing in the Bay of Quinte

Racing in the Bay of Quinte

Bay of Quinte

Bay of Quinte

We had two nights at the well-appointed and very well organised Trent Port Marina.

Trent Port Marina

Trent Port Marina

TrentPort Marina

Trent Port Marina

We dined at Tomasso’s , a family-run restaurant in an old building on the Trenton riverfront. It was our first meal out in Canada and more than met expectations.

A family (new baby, Mama, Daddy, uncle and aunt and two sets of grandparents) came and sat on a table next to us. Shortly afterwards our waitress brought them a tray containing several tall glasses of a murky brown liquid, garnished with what appeared to be sticks of celery.

I couldn’t resist asking our waitress what the drink was.

‘Oh, they’re Bloody Caesars,’ she replied, with a look of faint amusement, ‘that’s vodka, clamato – that’s tomato juice with clams – Worcester sauce, Tabasco sauce, peperoni and celery.’

It wasn’t an I’ll-have-what-they’re-having situation. When we got home, I consulted Mr Google. The drink was invented in Calgary in 1969 by Walter Schell, and quickly became very popular. Apparently, 350 million Caesars are consumed each year in Canada. Oddly, it is almost unknown anywhere else.

The Captain is sometimes not safe to be let out by himself. The next day he went off on his bike in search of a hardware store, to buy an extension for his socket set. He called in at the LCBO too, to replenish our dwindling supplies of beer and wine, and thought a can of Bloody Caesar would be a good idea.

At the time of writing, it’s still in the fridge waiting for someone to be brave enough to try it.

We left Trenton the next day to start the next stage of the loop, the 240-mile passage through the Trent-Severn Waterway, a series of canals, rivers and lakes which link Trenton in the southeast with Georgian Bay in the northwest.

Tomasso's, Trenton Waterfront

Tomasso’s, Trenton Waterfront

The LCBO, Trenton

The LCBO, Trenton

 

Gateway to Trent-Severn Waterway

Gateway to Trent-Severn Waterway

It promised an interesting journey through the beautiful hills and forests of this part of Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ilion to Lake Ontario

Beyond Ilion, the Erie Canal assumed a more or less straight course westwards to Rome, where we moored on the public dock and enjoyed a violent thunderstorm, during which Carina was pelted with hailstones the size of large marbles. Fortunately we were downstairs in the cabin at the time.

Dredging just above Ilion

Dredging just above Ilion

Waiting for lock 19 to open

Waiting for lock 19 to open

Vestiges of the old canal remain. At one time there was a branch to Old London.

Disused canal branch to Old London

Disused canal branch to Old London

Ilion to Oswego

Ilion to Oswego

The stretch between Locks 20 and 21 marks the highest point of the Erie Canal, so that at Lock 21 and beyond, we were descending rather than ascending in the locks. It marked a point on our westward progress.

The journey so far had been notable for how few other boats we had seen. That changed as we approached Lake Oneida, where at Sylvan Beach there were several marinas and lots of small craft out on the water.

Bridge E61 between Lock 22 and Lake Oneida

Bridge E61 between Lock 22 and Lake Oneida

Near Sylvan Beach

Near Sylvan Beach

Sylvan Beach

Sylvan Beach

The wide expanse of the lake, which is 20 miles across, was a welcome change after the enclosed feeling of the last miles of the canal.

Lake Oneida

Lake Oneida

We stopped at Brewerton Boatyard, a mile from the end of the lake.

6am, Brewerton

6am, Brewerton

The next day was overcast, with thunderstorms forecast, but with one eye on crossing Lake Ontario on Thursday, the Captain was anxious to make at least some progress.

It was agreed that we would go two miles to the next lock,  tie up at the free dock there and wait for the rain to pass.

Approaching lock 23 with the rain clouds gathering

Approaching lock 23 with the rain clouds gathering

Unfortunately the crew, in a misplaced attempt to seem keen and co-operative, suggested that the rain would hold off for a while longer and that we could go through the lock and tie up on the other side. Two minutes later,  we had passed  into the lock, the gates had irrevocably shut behind us, and the rain poured down, heavy, sharp and penetrating. We hung onto the ropes and got soaked to the skin while the lock emptied. The lock-keeper wished us a nice day.

We carried on after lunch, and left the Erie Canal where it leaves the Oswego River and carries on to Buffalo. It felt like an epic moment, which was not reflected in the bland landscape, the grey weather, and the small blue sign pointing the way. But I took a photo anyway. The small blue sign is just visible in the centre right of the picture.

Leaving the Erie Canal to join the Oswego River

Leaving the Erie Canal to join the Oswego River

Phoenix was a small but pleasant, welcoming place that boasted not only a state of the art laundromat (note my priorities) but a bakery, a Farmers’ market and a martial arts complex too. While our clothes were swishing around at the laundromat, we investigated the other facilities.The bakery proved a disappointment. It didn’t actually bake or even sell bread, though if I had wanted a child’s Mickey Mouse birthday cake, complete with specially fabricated sugar ears that apparently took a week to dry out and then soften again, it would clearly have met every expectation. The farmer’s market was more productive, and although I wasn’t allowed to buy a large pot of growing basil, I did get some locally grown plums and tomatoes, and a small victory in the form of a zucchini cake which, despite the Captain’s deep suspicion, was very palatable.

Moored at Phoenix

Moored at Phoenix

Flowers in the waterside park at Phoenix

Flowers in the waterside park at Phoenix

We had seen the tug Syracuse at various points along the canal. At Phoenix we watched as it pushed an impossibly long barge into the lock.

Syracuse at Phoenix

Syracuse at Phoenix

A couple of shots of the river between Phoenix and Oswego.

Oswego River above Lock 1

Oswego River above Lock 1

Oswego River above Lock 2

Oswego River above Lock 2

Oswego River, the weir at Lock 5

Oswego River, the weir at Lock 5

At Oswego we moored on the free dock. The area had once been home to textile mills and other businesses. In the evening, we walked round Fort Ontario, one of the many star-shaped forts constructed throughout America, and the scene in the 1750’s of battles between the British and the French and Indians.

Moored above Lock 8, Oswego

Moored above Lock 8, Oswego

Fort Ontario

Fort Ontario

The next day we got up early to make the seven hour crossing of Lake Ontario. There is no photographic record, because the photographer spent most of the journey lying down with eyes firmly shut, feeling rather ill.

But this is the view the previous evening, from the fort.

Lake Ontario from the Fort

Lake Ontario from the Fort

 

Return to Ilion – a day in the mountains and a band concert

It’s odd how ingrained one’s eating habits can be. I still can’t face the idea of beef or cheese early in the morning, so we walked past a number of different outlets in the Food Hall of Grand Union Station, Washington DC, looking for somewhere to have breakfast before we caught our train to New York, and then on to Ilion. Chipotle, Subway and Burger King had no chance. We did see a creperie, but that seemed a bit fancy and  by this time I had decided I wanted some bacon with my pancake.

We’d walked the entire length of the Food Hall when we came upon Johnny Rockets. It did do burgers, but their presence wasn’t too obvious, and more importantly, for $4.99, you could have two pancakes, butter, maple syrup, and three slices of bacon. The journey back to the boat had started well.

Johnny Rockets was styled like a 50’s diner, and there was even a little juke box on our table. Ian put 5 cents in, and selected Under the Boardwalk. The song resonates more now than it did in the sixties, now that we know what a boardwalk actually is, and have even walked on one. Back then, a boardwalk was part of Americana, like summer camps, cheerleaders, bayous and frosting on cakes, that as a Brit you had heard or read about, but not directly experienced.

But other customers had got there first, as the waiter had explained they might. We sat through Hound Dog, The Hop, La Bamba, Sixteen Candles, and the Locomotion, had our refills of coffee and it was time to find our train. We left the other customers to enjoy the Drifters.

In Johnny Rockets, Grand Union Station, DC

In Johnny Rockets, Grand Union Station, DC

In America, the process of getting on the train is quite regimented. You can’t, as at most stations in England, simply amble along to the appropriate platform and wait for your train to appear. You have to wait in the main hallway, along with everyone else who is waiting for every other train, until a disembodied voice announces the gate for your train. This usually happens ten minutes, or less, before your train is supposed to depart.

If you’re British and unfamiliar with the system, and have  no idea which gate your train is likely to depart from, you find yourself at the end of what seems like a half-mile line to get your ticket checked before you can go down the escalator to the platform and get to the train. The process is further complicated in that while you may have a ‘reservation’, you do not have a particular seat reserved. You only have a reserved seat somewhere on that train.

When this happens, as it did on Penn Station, New York, where we had to change trains for Utica(destination: Niagara Falls), it produces a flurry of despondency in the Captain.

‘We’ll miss the train.’ ‘We won’t get a seat.’ ‘There won’t be any room for our bags.’

The lines may seem long, but the trains themselves are longer still, and there are helpful staff to guide you to where seats are available in the spacious, air-conditioned coaches.

The journey north-west through the lovely Hudson Valley and  the Mohawk Valley mirrored the journey we had done in Carina, and we enjoyed spotting now-familiar landmarks.

Don and his wife Betty from Ilion Marina very kindly met us from the train and drove us back to Ilion from Utica.

We’d intended to leave the following morning and continue up the Erie Canal, but Carina needed to have a new bilge pump fitted, and we’d heard that there was a free open air concert that evening by the Ilion Civic Band, so we decided to stay two more nights and spend a day exploring the Adirondack Mountains by car.

The concert was in Central Plaza, half a mile away from the marina. Don had advised us to take our folding chairs with us, and we popped a couple of cans of Sam Adams Summer Ale in the bag too. We arrived about ten minutes before the concert was due to start, to find the band already tuning up in the bandstand, and quite a large audience already seated in semi-circular rows facing it. We felt slightly conspicuous looking around for somewhere to sit where we would get a good view, but not wanting to obstruct anyone else’s either.  Eventually a woman told us to sit in front of her – her son was playing trumpet, and she had already been to all the previous five concerts in the series.

She also advised us not to have very high expectations, but there’s nothing like live music played outdoors on a warm summer evening, and the concert was very enjoyable.The programme varied from Scheherazade to an Andrew Lloyd Webber medley, but perhaps the most successful pieces were the Big Four March (circus music, by Coral King),  and a Swing Medley of Benny Goodman’s music.

The compere was in his late sixties, and clearly a man of some standing in the community. He introduced each piece with a lengthy preamble about the composer, setting it in its historical context. Oddly it seemed, the first piece was William Walton’s  Crown Imperial March, written in 1937, we were told, at the time when the world was emerging from the Great Depression, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were fighting a proxy war in Spain, and King Edward of England (sic) had abdicated the throne to marry “the woman he loved”, and his brother King George of England had reluctantly ascended the throne instead.

Each introduction included an enthusiastic plug for the forthcoming events in Ilion, too numerous to mention here, and a heartfelt endorsement of the sponsors of the concert – the award-winning Medicine Shoppe, and their synchronisation programme ‘where their focus is on you, the customer’, CITGO the local gas station, and a company specialising in building foundations.

Introducing ‘Summer of 69’ , a medley of music played at Woodstock and arranged by Ted Ricketts, he reminded younger members of the audience that ‘some of us remember the Summer of Love, and it’s no business of yours what we were doing.’

The final piece needed no introduction. We all stood in respectful silence as the band played the American National Anthem.

We didn’t get to drink our cans of Sam Adams, either. There was Gatorade, ice-cream and water on sale, mainly it seemed for the consumption of the under-twelves. Somehow, drinking beer seemed inappropriate and possibly even illegal. So we took them back to the boat to drink and reflected on the great community spirit to be found in small-town America.

The next day we hired a car and drove north from Ilion into the Adirondacks, the tree-covered mountains that occupy the northern part of New York State, between the Erie Canal and the St Lawrence River.

We stopped for coffee at the Oxbow Lake Inn.

Coffee at the Oxbow Lake Inn

Coffee at the Oxbow Lake Inn

Although it was only 11.15, the Captain was already having thoughts of lunch, so that when the waitress arrived with our coffees, and asked if she could get us anything else, whilst simultaneously waving menus at us, he thought a pizza might be quite tempting.

The lady who made the pizzas had not arrived yet, but the waitress assured us she would only be about 10 minutes. The idea that the pizza might actually be made on the premises, by a real person, rather than defrosted from the freezer, increased my interest, and I wasn’t disappointed when the perfectly done pizza, complete with individual basil leaves, was set before us.

View from the Oxbow Lake Inn

View from the Oxbow Lake Inn

On the advice of the waitress, we acquired a leaflet on local walking trails from the Chamber of Commerce in Speculator, a few miles up the road, and walked two miles to the top of Pinnacle Watch Hill, first through shady woodland and then out onto a rocky outcrop with stunning views of Snowy Mountain and Indian Lake.

Start of the trail

Start of the trail

View from Pinnacle Watch Hill

View from Pinnacle Watch Hill

Looking towards Snowy Mountain from Pinnacle Watch Hill

Looking towards Snowy Mountain from Pinnacle Watch Hill

We took a circular route back to Ilion.

Seventh Lake

Seventh Lake

 

In the evening, it had just gone dark when there was a loud bang somewhere near the boat. We looked out  and from the deck had an excellent view of Ilion’s Summer Spectacular – a magnificent 30-minute firework display.