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Cruising the Hudson River

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

(40⁰42.615′ N by 074⁰02.436 W -  Mile 1717.81 - New York City, New York)

As we entered Federal Lock 1 just down stream from Waterford we knew our cruise was about to change. 

First, we were no longer traveling alone.  We had finally caught up to Bob and Debbie MacConnell on Melanie Bear and would be cruising to Florida with them.  Secondly, this would be the last lock in the Erie and Oswego Canal System.  Last, but not least, we were now entering the Hudson River which would bring us from a world of fresh water to brackish (a mixture of fresh and salt) then into the salt water which flows up the river on tide changes from the Atlantic Ocean.  As the huge doors opened and we left the Federal Lock 1 we would be seeing 160 miles of the Hudson River as we traveled to New York City.

Albany, New York - The State Capital

Albany, New York - The State Capital

Henry Hudson was the first European to explore the river throughout its navigable length and to leave a detail description of his voyage.  In the fall of 1609, Hudson and his ship, the Half Moon with his crew of 20 Dutch and English sailors explored the Hudson River from New York harbour up to present day Albany the state capital of New York.

The Hudson River, south of Federal Lock 1 is technically not a river at all.  It is a fiord which is subject to tidal changes of up to five feet.  Tidal changes initially are a challenge for fresh water boaters since you have to leave enough slack in the dock lines when you are tied to a fixed (notfloating) pier.  Tides also have to be considered when you anchor since every five or six hours the tide will reverse sending the boat 180 degrees in the opposite direction.  This is too say nothing of the depth considerations that must be taken into account when you are navigating. 

Tidal flow can also work for you or against you, literally.  Our trip on the Hudson would see tidal flow change from as much as 2 knots traveling with you or would slow our trip by 2 knots depending on the time of the day and the change.  Tides are now part of our life just like the weather.

The Hudson River, as I said, is a fiord with very deep sections of water and high, cliff-like walls rising a few hundred feet into the air on either side.  At first, you do notrealize the depth of this canyon until you see the size of a freight train hugging the sheer wall on the western shore, see a commuter train racing along near the water on the eastern shore or see huge buildings dwarfed in comparison to the cliffs.  To punctuate the size of the these walls we were fortunate to be traveling on the river during the fall change of colours.

img_0795Once on the river, we realized that dead heads, large weed balls and refuse were floating back and forth with the tidal flow so, a sharp look out was required of everyone on the bridge to avoid hitting the debris with the hull or worse,  getting some of these sizable pieces caught in the propellors to create more serious damage.  Fortunately, we managed to avoid all of the obstacles as we made our way to New York City.

Since we planned to meet the MacConnell’s children and our daughter and her boyfriend in New York City on Thursday, October 8thfor Canadian Thanksgiving weekend we knew we had three days to make our way over the next 160 miles which would be an average length run for us each day.  The first day we made it to a little village named Coxsackie, NY.  It did not look very much like a tourist" destination so, we decided to anchor behind a protective island in the river and have a quiet evening on board. 

When we dropped the anchor, the tide was incoming with a moderate current of roughly 1 knot and we hooked on to the muddy bottom that provided good holding.  I slept with “one eye open” for most of the night aware that the current reverses roughly every six hours.  While we held, we woke the next morning to find that we were pointing in the opposite direction with quite a bit of debris hooked around the anchor chain.  This was being held in place by a 2 knot current.  How much force is there from a 2 knot current?  If you were swimming in a current of this strength and you held on to a fixed object it would be all you could do to hang on and your body would be extended like a flag from a flag pole.

Waterfront - Kingston, New York

Waterfront - Kingston, New York

Once underway, we continued to head down-stream the next morning taking advantage of the outgoing tide for the next 34 miles.  We arrived at a very historic small town named Kingston which was once (briefly) the capital of New York State.

Kingston is indicative of the re-birth of many of the small towns that were once prosperous along the Hudson River.  Since many of the buildings showcase period architecture of the 1800’s people are rescuing them to be updated as restaurants, shops and in some cases museums.

In Kingston, after a wonderful outdoor lunch at a cafe located in this picture just off the waterfront, the guys decided to head to the marine museum while the ladies went for a walk.  This museum features a collection of watercraft and ice boats as well as pictures and historic documentation. 

Just down the street another historic group who did not appear to be connected to the museum are restoring World War 2 “PT Torpedo Boats” with one finished example sitting on the river wall complete with 50 calibre machine guns.

Is Your Summer Home Like This?

Is Your Summer Home Like This?

The next day, we were on our way to Terrytown, near Sleepy Hollow and the home of the Headless Horseman, just upstream from New York City.  As we began our journey that morning the weather was overcast but it was a great opportunity to see some of the summer homes of some legendary New Yorker socialites like the Vanderbilts.

As you can see from the picture, some of these structures are beyond what we would describe as “summer homes” but these structures go back to another era.  You can only imagine the patriarch of the family getting into the family launch and heading down stream to New York City for a few days at the office.

The Hudson River is also the home of a very historic military university, West Point.  West Point sits high on the walls of the river with one of the few low land flat areas near the river housing the football field and the athletics center.  It is here at the bend of the river where thick steel cables were stretched across the river to stop opposing warships from slipping further up the river.

West Point is an imposing structure which, due to the war on terrorism in the United States has restricted access.  It is clear that the large yellow bouys mean that small craft like ours are not to enter the restricted zone near shore.  

West Point Military Academy

West Point Military Academy

It is unfortunate we were not allowed to stop here.  My guess is that the architecture is quite spectacular.

As we continued down the river, the weather was about ot turn.  The wind started to pick up and as it rushed down the fiord it brought dark clouds which seemed ominous.  As the wind continued to build, we began to see small water spouts picking up moisture off the river’s surface.

It only got worse!  We experienced our first “microbursts” while aboard a boat and while we had been through water spouts and high winds before on Georgian Bay, this was quite different.  Suddenly, strong winds would hit the boat easily exceeding 60 knots and last about 60 to 90 seconds pushing Prime Time V to port.  For those of you who have ridden on this boat you know that it does not lean.  This day, it did!

When we finally entered TerrytownHarbor Bob and I both realized tying to a dock here would be a mistake.  The winds were blowing a constant 30+ knots and there was no portection here (on the east side of the river).  After some quick manuevering both Melanie Bear and Prime Time V were looking to the weatern shore where we would be in the protection of the hills.

We entered a marina in the town of Upper Nyack, which was our good furtune.  It is one of the great little suberbs of New York City.  This was also our departure point for John and Susan.  They were great guests, experienced boaters and just fun to be with.

Our plan was to leave the next morning but, just past 8:00 AM one of the marina employees came to suggest we hold off leaving for a few hours.  With the change in the moon the tidal swing was around 8 feet and he was quite concerned (almost certain)  we were on the bottom of the muddy river.  Another good bit of luck since today, the farmers market was open in the city parking lot.  Off we went with our recycle bags to see what we could find.  It was the best farmers market we have found so far on this trip.

Melanie Bear Finds NYC

Melanie Bear Finds NYC

Fully provisioned, we left late in the morning for our 37 mile journey into New York City.  We were looking forward to getting to NYC since our daughter Karen and her boyfriend Peter were joining us for the weekend.  Melanie Bear would also get four new crew members as well for a few days.  What a great way to spend Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

What did everyone do in New York City?  What does anyone do?  Go shopping, see a play, go to great restaurants, sight see and generally gather in the excitement of the city.
After a few days of shore leave, we would be going on to the ocean to continue our journey south.

The Oswego & Erie Canals

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

(42⁰47.237′ N by 073⁰40.778 W -  Mile 1550.92 - Waterford, New York)

At Oswego, New York we entered the historic Oswego Canal which runs south from Lake Ontario for 23.7 miles and seven locks to connect with the Erie Canal.  The Oswego was opened in 1828 and is known as one of the most successful inland waterways after the Erie, transporting goods from the Great Lakes and Midwest markets all along the eastern seaboard.  For close to a century, the Oswego River was an important waterway for trade.  Oswego gets it name from the native American word, “Osh-we-geh” which means “pouring out place”.  The name refers to the point where the river waters pour into Lake Ontario.

Oswego Lock 1 From The Bridge

Oswego Lock 1 From The Bridge

In its early days, the canal was a separate waterway from the Oswego River dug alongside it and merging with it in several locations.  Tow paths were constructed next to it for mules and horses and it included 18 locks from Oswego to Syracuse.  Remanants of the old canal can be seen in many places along the way and some of the paths have been utilized for bicycle and walking trails known as the New York State Canalway Trail System. 

Since we had come through Lake Erie from Windsor many people have asked us why we did not enter the Erie Canal at Buffalo (it runs from Buffalo to the Hudson)?   The reason is quite simple.  The Erie Canal west of the Oswego Canal is limited to just over 15.5 feet of air draft (from the water to a vertical obstruction like a bridge).  By entering at Oswego, New York and traveling south on the Oswego Canal then east on the Erie Canal to the Hudson River the air draft is 20.5 feet which is needed since Prime Time V has an air draft of 18.5 feet.  Even then, there were bridges that had us ducking our heads the clearance was that close.  If you look at the railway bridge ahead of us in the picture Prime Time’s radar head cleared this obstruction by less than two feet which is difficult to judge as you approach the structure. 


Susan In The Erie Canal

Susan In The Erie Canal

Our crew, John Kerr and Susan Duross were wonderful to have on board.  We developed a pattern with the ladies taking care of the front deck when we were in the locks and John holding the stern.  With September’s rains, the monotony of the number of locks and the green slime that coated the walls the crew was soon teasing me asking if their Captain was under a lot of stress sitting in the warm, dry bridge while perhaps getting a sore wrist pushing the bow thruster lever.  I admit it was stressful!

With just seven locks on the Oswego Canal we made it down to the Erie Canal by mid-afternoon and started our journey eastward where we stopped at Brewerton to our first taste of American fuel on this leg.  It was not the cheapest fuel price we had encountered but a bargain (when you are a Canadian) at $2.459 per US gallon.  That is roughly $0.66 ($Cdn) per litre for those of you who wanted to know how it competes with prices at home!

The next day it was an early start as we left Brewerton’s town docks and headed out for the 20 mile trip across Lake Oneida the only significant body of open water when traveling through the Oswego and Erie Canals system.  From here, we were now on the Erie Canal and heading east through the 22 locks and 153 miles that would take us into the Hudson River.

The Erie Canal was opened in 1825 three years before the Oswego and was an engineering marvel in its time.  The system unlocked an enormouse series of social and economic changes for America.  It spurred the westward movement of settlers giving access to rich land and resoursces west of the Appalachians and made New York the preeminent commercial city of the United States. 

A Historic Building On The Erie Canal

A Historic Building On The Erie Canal

The then-governor of New York envisioned a better way to move goods such as grain from the Great Lakes basin and he was successful in convincing the state legislature to authorized $7 million for construction of a canal 363 miles long, 40 feet wide and four feet deep.  The effect of the canal was immediate.  Freight rates for grain dropped from $100 per ton by road to $10 per ton by canal overnight.  In 1829, there were 3,460 bushels of wheat transported down the canal from Buffalo.  By 1837 this figure had increased to 500,000 bushels.  Four years later it reached one million.  The tolls alone recouped the cost of construction. 

Unfortunately, by the early 1900’s railways were beginning to cut into the Canal’s commercial value and when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 commercial traffic virtually disappeared.  Today the canal system with all of its related tributaries is used primarily by pleasure craft and fortunately the State of New York recognizes the canal systems potential to attract tourism that relates to the canal.  All along the system you can see dredging, work barges and boats as well as repairs to the locks and dams.   To read more about the New York State Canal System visit

Heritage Canada should take a lesson on how to maintain the Trent-Severn and Rideau Waterways from the State of New York.  For those of you that have traveled these two systems you can see the rapidly deteriorating infrastructure.

Prime Time V In Waterford

Prime Time V In Waterford

As we traveled through the Erie Locks we quickly developed a standard pattern which made the lockages easier as we progressed.  This allowed us to enjoy the fall colours which were just changing.  Most of the old industrial buildings along the shoreline in the villages were remanents from the 19th century when businesses grew and shipped their goods along this inexpensive transportation route.  Companies like Hershey’s and Remington were there in the prime of the waterway but had moved on abandoning the structures that had housed them. 

Too bad really, since most of these building could be considered historically significant and could be restored to their former glory but, with the recession in the United States and the long lasting depression that holds on in this part of New York State it is doubtful they will be restored soon.

As we traveled east along the Erie the sun was starting to get the upper hand on the rain showers that never really broke but continued to threaten since we had left Belleville.  We had hoped for better weather along the way but at least it had not poured on my crew.

The last thing you want is a mutiny on board when they had so graciously offered their services.

Melanie Bear In Waterford, New York
Melanie Bear In Waterford, New York

When we reached Waterford, New York we had traveled through all but one of the Erie Canal locks and we were greeted by Bob and Debbie MacConnell our travel partners to Florida and Bahamas on their boat, Melanie Bear.  It was great to finally see them.  Bob and Deb have been friends of ours for longer than we can remember and the four of us had planned this trip for many years together. 

Since Bob and Deb had been in Waterford for a day or two before we arrived they already knew where to go shopping, that there was a “farmers market” on Sunday morning right in front of the boat, that if you were very polite (read TIP) to the dockmaster the 24 hour could be extended indefinitely and that you could have breakfast at the local diner on the main street for $3.75.  It helps to have local knowledge.

The next stage of our trip would take us down the Hudson River to New York City.

Toronto to Oswego, NY

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

(43⁰27.685′ N by 076⁰30.613 W -  Mile 1402.91 - Oswego, New York)

Since we left Honey Harbour on August 5th Prime Time V has logged 1402.91 miles or 120 hours of running on its journey through the Great Lakes to Florida and Bahamas.  Let’s bring you up-to-date with what has happened since our last post on September 16th in Toronto.

Ontario Place - Toronto, Ontario

Ontario Place - Toronto, Ontario

We spent nine days in Toronto at Ontario Place which is a Toronto lake front play and concert area for the community.  We were on one of the docks that was open to the public, but by late September, especially with the colder and windier weather, most residents of Toronto chose to stay away from the park.  As a place to stay, Ontario Place has its unpleasant side with strong surge currents pushing through the marina.  One morning, with the wind blowing from the south, I had to get up and get off the boat at 4:00 AM just to get on solid land. 

With all of our personal appointments and tasks in order we were anxious to leave Toronto to get to Belleville which is located 100 miles to the east.  As we pulled out of Ontario Place and rounded Toronto Island strong easterly winds were right off our bow.  After a few waves over top of the bridge roof Nancy and I both decided that we should pull into Outer Harbour Marina and wait for another day before heading east.

The following morning we left Outer Harbour and with the waves running at 3 feet heading toward Cobourg we felt we could make the run with some discomfort but with no concern that we could not push on.  After Cobourg, the waves began to build higher and by the time we reached the western shores of Prince Edward County the waves had built to 6 feet.  Dozens of waves were hitting the front windshield on the bridge and running over the bridge roof.  Both of us were happy to get into the lee of the county and into Brighton Bay. 

Over the next few days, we spent time with my parents who live in Belleville not too far from the city docks at Meyers Pier.   Our friends from high school, Dave and Sharon Little arranged to host dinner with 14 of our friends from my high school class at their home on the Bay of Quinte.  It was great to spend some time with people you have known for over forty years and to catch up on what had happened over the years to all of our lives.  What a great reunion.

Lifting The Dinghy Off

Lifting The Dinghy Off

When we arrived in Belleville after our rough trip from Toronto we realized the pounding had bent our swim platform out of adjustment and that we would have to get the dinghy lifted before it could be repaired.  What was the solution?  Fortunately, we were on the face wall in the marina.  We simply backed the boat to the pier and had a tow truck pick it off the back swim platform.  The tow truck operator drove off the pier back onto the road and we backed a boat trailer under the boat and sent it back to Toronto.  Just as well though since the dinghy has been recalled for some modifications as well.

Fortunately, our friends John Kerr and Susan Duross were arriving in Belleville to help us on the next leg of our journey through the Oswego and Erie Canals and down the Hudson River to New York City.  John knew the about the problem we had with the swim platform and offered to bring his boat trailer.  John’s son was kind enough to return the boat to Oakville for the warranty work it needed.  Friends are always there when you need them the most.

That afternoon, the four of us left Belleville with the intention of running to Oswego if the winds and waves were subdued enough to make it across the 40 miles of open lake.  As we rounded the eastern end of Prince Edward County and approached Main Duck Island the seas cooperated until we were past their protection.   The last 20 miles were rough with seas building to 6 feet or more and reaching their peak as we entered Oswego’s outer breakwall.

An unpleasant two hours for sure but we watched the following two or three days and wind and weather conditions only got worse.  It was rough but overall a good decision to get across the lake.

With our experiences from Toronto to Belleville and Belleville to Oswego these were certainly our roughest open water crossings.  While we grew up close to the lake neither Nancy or I have any fond memories of Lake Ontario during this trip.

Fortunately, it was time to enter the protected and historic Oswego and Erie Canals on our way to New York City.

Windsor, Lake Erie, The Welland Canal & On To Toronto!

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

(42⁰52.533′ N by 079⁰15.153 W -  Mile 1160.17 - Toronto, Ontario)

Since we last wrote, Prime Time V has logged 1160 miles since leaving its home port in early August.  We left Grosse Pointe Yacht Club on Thursday, September 10th traveling through the southern portion of Lake St. Clair then into the Detroit River to the Windsor Yacht Club where we would spend three nights. 

While we were in Windsor we had the opportunity to cruise the city’s waterfront with our daughter’s, boyfriend’s family, the Quinnsey’s.  Since this was the first time we had cruised this area, it was great to have them aboard to point out all of the local buildings and facilities both on the Windsor and Detroit section of the river. 

What immediately strikes you is the diversity along the shoreline.  Parks, heavy industry, high-rise condominiums, office buildings, bridges and vacant lands.  Drive or walk the streets and what is evident how hard the recession has hit both sides of the border.  Homes large and small are either for sale or vacant and public lands are deteriorating due to lack of public funding.  If you are not from this area, you do not realize just how hard the recession has hit the car manufacturing capitals of North America until you see it for yourself.

High levels of security are patrolling the river on the USA and Canadian side of the river.  Windsor Marine Police, RCMP, Canadian Coast Guard, Homeland Security, US Coast Guard, Detroit Marine Police and military helicopters and police constantly patrol.  (I am sure I missed some agency in this list.)

North Fighter Exiting Welland Lock 3

North Fighter Exiting Welland Lock 3

On Saturday, September 12 Bob MacConnel and Brian Tattersall arrived to help me run the boat from Windsor to Port Colborne, through the Welland Canal and on to Toronto.  We left Windsor Yacht Club early Sunday morning making our way down the Detroit River to Lake Erie in the company of lake freighters and salties some high in the water on their way to pick up a new load while others were low in the water a sure sign they were traveling their next destination to unload. 

This section of the river has a controlled depth which is published each year indicating the operational depth.  That information is particularly important to the commercial ships since they load to within one foot of bottom clearance.  The greater the channel depth - the greater the load resulting in higher incomes for the freighters.

Before entering Lake Erie we made a conscious decision to stay on the Canadian side of the Detroit River and to travel on the north side of Lake Erie to avoid meeting any US border agency.  After we read the charts and the cruising guide we concluded that there are few harbours that can accomodate a 56′ boat with a 5′ draft on the Canadian shoreline of Lake Erie and those that could were not near a direct path down the center of the lake. 

Preparing to Leave Welland Lock 3

Preparing to Leave Welland Lock 3

We concluded that with the fair weather we had and the sufficient fuel load on board we would continue the length of the Lake to Port Colborne, the town at the entrance of the Welland Canal.  A quick start in the morning had us waiting on the Port Colborne Municipal Dock at 7:00 AM.  After giving the vessel information over the phone to the attendant and a $200 credit card payment for lockage we were told we would be called by 8:45 AM for the 8 to 12 journey through the locks.

The current canal was completed 1933 and is the fourth system of locks since the original was constructed in 1829.  Each system that was constructed increased the overall capacity and the dimensions of the locks.  The set in use today is 27 miles long.  Each lock is 80 feet wide, 860 feet long witha minimum draft depth in the channels of  27 feet.  While commercial ships take priority in the locks, pleasure craft can transit the locks when they are not in use by bigger vessels.

We were called at 8:40 AM and told that we were next in line for transit through Lock 8, at Welland Canal’s southern entrance on Lake Erie.  Although we had large inflatable fenders the currents created by the turbulent water in the bottom of the lock kept us off of the lock walls.  Overall it was a very easy 8-1/2 hour passage.  For more information on the Welland Canal try searching “Welland Canal Locks”.  There are many interesting sites including one where the bridge was lowered too early.  For a video on this incident link to  Fortunately, we passed through all of the locks without incident!

Arriving in Toronto

Arriving in Toronto

After a night at Port Dalhousie just outside of the canal’s approach on the Lake Ontario, we cruised north to Toronto to find a berth at Ontario Place near downtown Toronto.  Once again, our lake crossing was blessed with only moderate seas for the 25 mile that we had to go.

As we approached Toronto, we were able to watch a Search & Rescue helicopter hovering over a Metro Marine Unit vessel as it cruised at high speed outside of the harbour near the Toronto Islands.  They were practicing extractions (lifting two people) off of the boat into the helicopter while it was in motion. 

Prime Time V was greeted by a series of Porter Airlines Dash 7’s flying low on final approach to the Island Airport as we round the break wall into the protection of the marina.

Ontario Place will be our home for the next nine days until we continue our journey eastward on Lake Ontario to Belleville then on to the Oswego Canal by October 1st.  For the time being we will enjoy all that Toronto has to offer during our stay.

Current Location - Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in Lake St. Clair

Monday, September 7th, 2009

(42⁰26.050′ N by 082⁰52.200 W -  Mile 824.34 - Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, Michigan)

Since we wrote to you on September 3rd, we have traveled from Harrisville, to Harbor Beach, to Port Huron and today on to Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in Lake St. Clair.  Our stays in Harrisville and Harbor Beach were normal stops along the lake arriving early to mid-afternoon each day with Nancy coercing me into a walk or a bicycle ride for some exercise.  Both of these little villages were laid back with little local activity.  Just sleepy little eastern Michigan villages.

Presque Ilse Northern Lighthouse

Presque Ilse Northern Lighthouse

Sometimes these afternoon trips do lead to seeing some of the local sights however, such as when we arrived in Presque Ilse, Michigan on September 2nd.  The dockmaster, a local lady who has retired with her husband but, works at the local marina “just to keep her busy” suggested we cross the street to convenience store which was the only local business in the village other than the marina and a restaurant.

She told us that there were bicycles which were free to use to ride around the local paths and trails.  We also learned that there were two light houses with museums just a mile apart which could be accessed by road and trail.  Off we went not know what to expect.  The original light house was built in the early 1800’s to lead the ships into Presque Ilse for fuel cargo.  At that time the village boasted 400 inhabitants.  A quick tour through the light house keepers home and then a walk to the top of the tower revealed a excellent view of this protected harbor.

Later, we continued down the road to the “new” northern light house which was built in the mid 1800’s.  It’s purpose what to guide local shipping past Preque Ilse westward.  At 183 feet high, it is the highest public accessible light house on the Great Lakes and of course we had to climb to the top to see the panoramic views of Lake Huron and the surrounding coast line.

img_0668After leaving Presque Isle we traveled to Harrisville, Harbor Beach and on to Port Huron arriving on Saturday of the Labour Day weekend.  While the boating activity on Lake Huron had been very limited, the weekend traffic was out in full force just north of the Bluewater Bridge which crosses the St. Clair River from Port Huron, Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario.  Passing under the bridge closed out our Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay travels which we will most likely not see again in Prime Time V for several years.  The good news is that we had seven consecutive days of dead-flat cruising conditions on lakes that normally do not let you off that lightly.

We decided to stay at Port Huron for a couple of days to take time out from our travel schedule and to try to miss some of the Labor Day weekend boating traffic.  Port Huron is the home of the Great Lakes Cruising Club and while we cruised right passed the GLCC offices on the river, we unfortunately could not meet the office staff since the office was closed.  We cruised up-river past the first bridge on the river to the River Street Municipal Marina.  Once we parked bow into shore we watched the local and visiting boaters watch us watch them at close range.  The river here is quite narrow and the

Unity - Elana Ford's Personal Yacht

Unity - Elana Ford's Personal Yacht

traffic is constant with some larger vessels such as Elena Ford’s (yes, that Ford family) 130 foot Palmer Johnson inching through the traffic.  As you can see, it is quite a craft which we would see again later.

All the way down the coast of Lake Huron we kept running into a sail boat name “Kinji”.  For a couple of days we noticed they would leave an hour before us and then they would arrive at the next destination two hours after we had arrived.  It became a bit of a running joke and finally we introduced ourselves to Bill and Debra Laule, charming people, recently retired who were bringing their boat back from Lake Michigan after a summer of cruising to their home port, Grosse Pointe Yacht Club.  We asked them which marina we should stay at once we arrived in Lake St. Clair?

Bill quickly suggested he could sponsor us into the yacht club since we were Great Lakes Cruising Club members and assured us we would be pleased with the accomodations.  We arrived this morning to see Unity parked on the outside wall with plenty of other large pleasure craft parked in their slips.  Let me put the calibre of this yacht club into perspective.  In 1997, the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club was accorded the honour of being named the “Number One Yacht Club in America” in a national survey of professionsal club managers.   It has maintained the title since then!

Prime Time V at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club

Prime Time V at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club

The club was founded in 1914 by a group of ice boaters who recognized the year round potential of their club’s lakefront location.  They built an 18th century Italian Renaissance building combining sun-washed stucco walls and terra cotta tile, topped by a towering 187 foot steeple.

After walking the grounds we both agreed that this is truly a spectacular location with just about every brand  and size of cruising and sail boat at its docks.  Inside, the architecture is spectacular with a rotunda in the mian hallway with a bronze statue.  The massive hall has a huge fireplace at one end of the room.

Our plan is to be at Grosse Pointe Yacht Club until at least Thursday or possibly Friday morning to allow us to explore the area and to take our spare props to a Wolverine Propellor to have them computer balanced before we go south.  I hope we don’t need to install them but, they will be ready if needed.

Main Ballroom - Grosse Pointe Yacht Club

Main Ballroom - Grosse Pointe Yacht Club

Next weekend we’ll be off to Windsor to meet some local friends for dinner as well as to switch crews on Sunday.  My friends, Bob MacConnell and Brian Tattersall will come to Windsor to help me move the boat from Windsor to Toronto through Lake Erie and the Welland Canal while Nancy returns to China on business.

Heading to Port Huron, Detroit & Windsor

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

(44⁰39.556′ N by 083⁰17.091 W -  Mile 644.01 - Harrisville, Michigan)

Since our last entry on August 27th in Charlevoix, we have waited for the weather to clear and the winds to settle.  Originally, we were to leave Charlevoix on Friday, August 28th after having the injectors and the injector pump on the main generator replaced.  A call on Friday morning confirmed that the parts would be delayed until after the weekend, a blessing in disguise since the waves on Lake Michigan reached 6 to 8 feet on the weekend.

After the generator repairs were finished, we were ready to depart on Tuesday, September 1st and fortunately, winds and waves were beginning to diminish.  Once we cleared the Mackinac suspension bridge the seas were all but flat.  That day we ran leisurely at 10 knots to Cheboygan, the next day to Presque Ilse and today on to Harrisville, Michigan.  Each of these runs were smooth and relaxing cruises of 50 to 60 miles.

Along the way, we were in the company of large ocean-going and Great Lakes freighters on their way north bound.  With visibility of over 25 miles it was great to be on the water.  You can tell the recreational boating season is coming to a close however.  Only boats which we meet along the way each day (most likely heading south as we are) are out on the water with a number of smaller, local fishing boats.

As nice as the cruising has been we must still keep a sharp look out on the bridge for floating fishing nets.  These obsructions are marked with a red and green floating flag (3 feet high) on either end with 6″ floating daylight red balls holding the net under water.  These net strings can be up to a 1/2 mile long and are difficult to identify in smooth water.  Rough water makes it that much more difficult to spot them.  Usually, they are positioned in water depths of 80 to 100 feet.  Catch these lines on your underwater running gear and you have serious problems.

Michigan had the foresight to designate the funds generated from fuel taxes and dockage to boating infrastructure.  This money is administered by the Department of Natural Resources and is ear-marked for new docks, launch ramps and fisheries.  This program was initiated in the 50’s and the initial objective was for harbours of refuge not more than 15 miles away along all of the shoreline of Lakes Huron and Michigan.  We have been staying at these harbours since arriving in Michigan on Mackinac Island.  Each of the harbours, usually managed by the municipality or the county offer top-notch facilities and docks.  Ontario and other provinces would do well to study this program to give our ailing municipalities the financial stimulus needed to upgrade their marinas and showcase their cities.

The east coast of Michigan (Lake Huron) is quite different from the western shore (Lake Michigan).  While the western shore has beautiful homes, resorts and commercial developments the eastern shore is less prosperous.  Part of this lies in the fact that the Lake Michigan’s shoreline has natural harbours and high sand dunes that have attracted summer residents for over 100 years.  The eastern coast has fewer natural harbours and appears to be more suited to agriculture.  Simply - the western side of Michigan is more prosperous than the east.

Our plan is to be in Port Huron, Michigan for the Labour Day weekend.  We will stay there from Saturday until Tuesday morning when we will travel down the St. Clair River to the Detroit area.  Two or three days in Detroit near Marina Mile (the main marina area where most of the dealers and services are) then we will cross the river to Windsor to clear Canadian Customs and Immigration.

Soon Turning East (And South)!

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

(45⁰18.997′ N by 085⁰15.412 W -  Mile 454.5 - Charlevoix, Michigan)

On Wednesday, August 26th we took a short 19 mile run out from Harbor Springs to Charlevoix, Michigan through Little Traverse Bay.  Although the winds were light, the waves were a bit sloppy with the remnants of the rain and stormy weather we had on the 25th.  Before we talk about Charlevoix, here is a bit of information about Harbor Springs. 

Harbor Springs Municipal Marina

Harbor Springs Municipal Marina

The Town of Harbor Springs sits just inside of a point of land protecting it from the westerlies that are prevalent in the Great Lakes Basin.   It is a “picture perfect” resort community with plenty of stores geared to the summer residents that visit each year.  Ice cream, antique, interior design, lady’s and men’s fashion stores are on the main street.

While we were here, we visited two of the larger boat dealers in Northern Michigan - Irish Marine and Walstoms.  Both are first class operations and are dealers for some of the finest boat brands available in North America.  Walking the docks, we could see that both of these dealerships have a very strong base.  Vikings, Hatteras, Tiara, HInkley’s all were represented at the dock with some as big as 75 feet.  Parked with these vessels, Prime Time V didn’t look so big any more.

The town bases its existance on the summer residents who come from Southern Michigan, Illinios and Ohio. Originally, the owners would travel from these destinations by train or in some cases by ferry.  In fact, the long pier in the municipal marina was originally built to extend far into the water to reach deeper water in the middle of the sheltered sandy bay. 

The homes that line the streets are old with picture perfect gardens overflowing with colorful flowers.  You can tell though that the recession in the United States is taking its toll as many of these wonderful homes had “For Sale” signs on their from lawns. 

A Summer Home In Harbor Springs

A Summer Home In Harbor Springs

Reading the real estate ads in the local paper only confirmed that many of the homes for sale were attractively priced compared to the prices we are used to seeing in the Muskoka’s or on Georgian Bay.  $700,000 does not sound like a bargain but, when you consider a 3000 square foot home with 150′ of frontage of sand beach on Little Traverse Bay that was an architectural jewel could be purchased, one could consider it to be a real estate bargain of sorts.

I should tell you that Harbor Springs shares Little Traverse Bay with two other towns of note.  Petoskey, which is known for its many architecturally inspired homes and Bay Harbor and newer community that has many single homes as well as condos.  This community is built around a 90 acre, flooded quarry that was converted to a resort destination.  The marina has 400 slips, handles boats to 250 feet and has a lake depth of 75 feet.  An ingenious conversion of an idle quarry!

Little Traverse Bay by the way is not so little.  My guess is that this bay is over 10 miles long and most likely four miles wide or wider.  Water depths are over 200 feet and the bay is ringed with beautiful sand beaches and high sand dunes.  It reminded Nancy and I of Sand Banks Provincial Park on the western shore of Prince Edward County.

Since we were in Harbor Springs for three days and weather was not cooperating anyway, I took the opportunity to call in the local Cummins dealer to service the 20 Kwh Westerbeke generator we have on board.  A check of the service records indicated it was well over due for an adjustment to the valves and an inspection of the diesel injectors.  While the valves were within tolerance, a re-build of the injectors and the injector pump was recommended so, they were sent out for repairs and will be back by the end of the week to be re-installed.

As I said, we moved on from Harbor Springs to Charlevoix on Wedensday, August 26th.  We’ll stay here until at least until Saturday morning since Friday is the day the injectors and the injector pump is supposed to be back.  Here is hoping it arrives on time so we do not have to wait until Monday.

Round Lake From Charlevoix Main Street BridgeThe entrance into Charlevoix is almost hidden from view as you approach it from Lake Michigan making the chart plotter invaluable.  Once you find the entrance, you travel three quarters of a mile on the Pine River to the main street bridge into Round Lake where the Town of Charlevoix is located.  Round Lake is only about 1500 feet in diameter but is nearly 60 feet deep so, anchoring is extremely limited.  Besides, you will want to park on the town’s new docks next to the main street.  There are numerous quaint shops and good restaurants close to the marina as well as an excellent farmers market on the marina property on Thursdays.

When we docked, the dock staff told me that we were pronouncing Charlevoix incorrectly.  Being Canadian and having some high school French language training we pronounced it as “Shar-le-vwa”.  The locals apparently lost their knowledge of French some time ago pronouncing the name “Shar-la-voy”.   So, there really is a cultural divide between Canadians and American!  We all had a good laugh over this!

Into Lake Michigan

Monday, August 24th, 2009

(45⁰25.651′ N by 084⁰59.262 W -  Mile 435.1 - Harbor Springs, Michigan)

img_0612 This was a fourth trip to Mackinac Island and we enjoy the island each time we go.  The absence of automobiles, horse drawn carriages, fudge shops, the 19th century architecture, the history, bike riding and the people you meet all add to the charm being there.  Of course, like many American “destinations” the island markets it features like the Grand Hotel’s porch, Arch Rock or the historic fort to the max.

As a result, the island is visited by mainland tourists who arrive daily on one of the many ferries crossing the Straits of Mackinac at high speeds.  These mono-hull or catamaran boats run across the two to three miles of the strait propelled by water jet drives that send plumes of water a hundred feet behind and travel in excess of 30 mph.  Each and every load arrives with tourists commonly known as “fudgies” (those in search of Mackinac fudge).

img_0603We stayed on Mackinac Island for four nights, one night longer than we originally planned.  Other than the afternoon we arrived the days were filled with clouds, occaisional rain and for three days, high winds which whipped up the waves on Lake Michigan and through the Straits to four to six feet.  We decided to stay put based on the forecast and prevailing conditions since our schedule remains flexible plus it allowed us some valuable shore time for bike riding (both of us) and walking time for Nancy.

On the day tornados were reported in Southern Ontario, Mackinac Island received its effects from the storms as well.  The winds were out of the south east, the only direction open to the Straits and during the night we awoke to feel the boat moving more than usual in the slip.  We went out to the back deck to find that waves coming on to our stern had snapped one of our dock lines.  The dock lines are 5/8″ Dacron so you can imagine the force of the waves.  And - we had some protection from boats behind us!  I am not sure how any of these people slept on board.

img_0606The sun rose on the morning of August 23rd with sunnier skies and calm waters so we decided it was a good time to leave and travel to Harbor Springs in Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.  Sixty plus miles of smooth running at 9 kts then into the municipal harbor where we met our friends on “Izzy R” again.  We had a great dinner on board with them to what may be our last contact until possibly next winter when both boats are in Florida and Bahamas.  We look forward to seeing them again.

About The Name?

For the record, you will see two spellings for the island, the strait and Mackinaw City which is located on the mainland.  Originally , the name Michilmackinac tied tonges for spellers for decades.  Native Americans called the hump-backed island in the waters joining lakes Michigan and Huron Michilimackinac, meaning “place of the great turtle”  French settlers who came to the area in the 17th century gave at least 55 spellings to the name but eventually Michilmackinac (with the silent “c” at the end) emerged as the favoured form.
Though first applied to the island, the name Michilmackinac was eventually given to the entire Straits of Mackinac region.  In time it was shortened to Mackinac.  The founders of Mackinaw City opted for the phonetic “aw” spelling, probably as a way to distinguish their town for Mackinac Island for the confused postal carriers.  So today, Mackinaw City retains the spelling “aw” while the bridge, straits and island steadfastly cling to the traditional  “ac” spelling.  No matter how it is spelled however, it is always pronounced Mackinaw!  (I was always confused with this so, I hope this clarifies the issue.  The source of this information is from the Mackinac Island Visitors Guide.)



Moving On To The USA

Friday, August 21st, 2009

 (45⁰50.988′ N by 084⁰50.940 W -  Mile 369.1 - Mackinaw Island, Michigan)

Since the last web post a few  days ago in Oak Bay, Prime Time V has put another 140 miles of water under its keel.  On Monday morning we left Oak Bay traveling 48 miles to Meldrum Bay, a small village of just 48 residents on the North West corner of Manitoulin Island.  The North Channel was nearly calm so it was a good day to press forward.

Meldrum Bay is a sleepy little village with some major progress by its standards.  With only 48 permanent residents we were pleased to see that the restaurant/hotel is now under new management as well as the general store being open as well.  Most of the residents work in the tourist industry or to the west in the quarrie.  A new shore wall has been installed in the marina to reduce swell off the North Channel and a new dock and dock masters office is planned.  Anywhere else - no big deal but in Meldrum Bay, this is progress!

The only other residents of Meldrum Bay are the bears, rabbits and foxes.  Although Nancy was determined to go for a walk while we were on shore she limited her trecks to the main roads.  Meeting a bear was the last thing that she wanted to do although I assured her the bear would not want to meet her either!

On Tuesday, we moved westward to our first stop in the United States -Drummond Island.  Another 44 miles under our belt.  Fortunately, Customs and Border Protection Services have an office in Drummond Island Yacht Haven which made clearing us and the boat very easy.  Both officers who came to the boat were extremely pleasant and the paper work was finished in about five minutes.

It was great to get on the dock at Drummond Yacht Haven since the wind and wave conditions built as the day went on.  The morning forecast predicted light winds and calm seas but as the day progressed we encountered 20 Kt winds with up to two foot seas.  In a 56 foot boat it is not that it is so uncomfortable but rather annoying that we were getting this kind of weather.  We slipped into the dock at Yacht Haven and were happy to know we would get a good night’s sleep.

We initally met the crew of “Izzy R” a 49 foot Defever Trawler in Meldrum Bay with a home port of Irvine, California.   Jeff and Izzy, the owners bought the boat specifically to take the Great Circle Route.   We got to know them and their friend Dennis better in Drummond Island.Their trip started in Florida when they bought the boat on East Coast of the USA last year.  After wintering in Florida they cruised up the Eastern Seaboard, up Hudson to Lake Champlain, up the St. Lawrence to Montreal, turned right onto the Ottawa River and then through the Rideau and Trent-Severn Canals.  Their goal is to Chicago down the Mississippi and the Tenn-Tom Waterways and back to Florida.  More and more cruisers are doing this.

We found a common interest and new friends when Jeff came to the boat after noticing our America’s Great Loop Cruising Association burgee on the bow.img_0589  They are members too and it is quite common to exchange cards and compare notes of our travels.  You can visit AGLCA’s website by going to

The following day, with calm winds, we pushed on for another 46 miles from Drummond Island to Mackinaw Island.  Mackinaw is a great island.  No motorized vehicles are allowed with only bicycles, horses or your feet being the modes of transportation available.  We have been here before but decided to stay for three days to take a break from travel and enjoy the sites of this historic island.

We’re now on our third day here and other than the afternoon we arrived winds and rain have been the order of each day.  On our first night, the winds came directly out of the south east which is the only open access the waves had to the harbour.  With stong wave action in our slip, neither of us got much sleep.   We woke at 4:00 AM to find that the stern starbord line had snapped under the wave action.  No small feat since these are 5/8″ lines. 

We’ll be waiting out the weather for the next few days.   The weather is predicted to be windy with high waves for the next few days.  For you boaters - here is a new weather website you will find interesting.   Try

We will be telling you more about Mackinaw Island in a following web post.

Continuing Westward In The North Channel

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

 (46⁰08.271′ N by 082⁰15.539 W -  Mile 229.5 - Oak Bay) 

On Friday, August 14th we entered the North Channel when we passed through the narrows at Town of Little Current.  Little Current is located on the north shore of Manitoulin Island and is the northern highway access route to the island.  Called Baiwejewung “where the waters flow” by the natives, the current through this passage can at times be up to 4 knots under the bridge created by wind tide known on the Great Lakes as sèche.   For provisioning, Little Current offers the best choice of shops and services on the island.

If you stop (we did not need to preferring to motor on to the Bell Cover anchorage) you might share dock space with other pleasure boaters or an occasional cruise ship.  During the first week of August we heard that there was a 300 foot ship registered in Malta there for the night.

The only other way to get a motorized vehicle to Manitoulin is to take the ferry named the Chi Cheemaun (Big Canoe) from Tobermory to South Bay Mouth.

Manitoulin Island is quite large stretching seventy miles east to west and nearly thirty miles north to south at its widest points.  It is reputed to be the largest fresh water island in the world and also to have the greatest number of lakes contained within a fresh water island as well.  If you drive across the island the topography reminds you of the Niagara Escarpment since the island has many areas of sedimentary shale with expose rock bluffs.  Other parts of the island have vast flat stretches. 

The North Channel is roughly 70 miles east to west and while technically it is part of Lake Huron it is isolated from the main lake by Manitoulin, Cockburn and Drummond Islands, the later being in US waters.  Its western half is as much as 20 miles wide and since the prevailing winds are from the west, wave heights can sometimes create unpleasant cruises.  I can personally attest to riding the backs of 2 meter waves a few years ago and it was not that pleasant.

While the area surrounding the North Channel may appear to be virgin territory, native Canadians have occupied it for thousands of years while European settlers came to the area to trade, farm, fish and log.  Many of the small towns surrounding this body of water have museums documenting the past.

As this is being written (August 16th) the water is now warm, the mosquitoes are apparently diminishing although you would not know that by looking at our screens at night and the supplies will be diminishing in the local stores.  We met some locals in Bell Cove who commented that many of the American boats were now heading west and that traffic would be diminishing.  I guess these are the times of the year when local cruisers get to enjoy their favorite anchorages after the summer rush.  I can relate to this after cruising in Southern Georgian Bay for so many years.

We left Bell Cove this morning moving westward through the McBean Channel to stay in Oak Bay for at least one night.  This is an area we had been told to visit and we plan to drop the dinghy to explore this afternoon.