Lake Ontario, Thousand Islands & the Start of the Trent-Severn Waterway: July 12 2022 (Part 2)

"The only constant in life is change," Heraclitus.  This anccient Greek philosopher could not have been more right.  The log is still going but not yet totally sorted out.  It seems that a new computer, Windows11 and a no longer supported web building tool  resulted in A LOT of chaos.  I will keep updating and getting the format back into shape but the travels are still happening and that is the funnest part.  This is what we have been up to during the computer chaos. 

In the morning all boats tossed the lines and proceeded through Oswego Lock #8 and out onto Lake Ontario (6/30).  It was a smooth lake crossing and from here cruisers again took different paths…some straight to Kingston, some ambling up the St Lawrence and through the Thousand Islands in any number of patterns but all are (eventually) targeting the Trent-Severn Waterway like us.  We were in the ambling group and ended our day anchored in Henderson Bay, NY.  The milestones are coming fast and furious despite moving along at a walking pace.  The Erie Canal is in the rear-view mirror.  The Oswego Canal is in the rear-view mirror.  We are in the Great Lakes!  Holy cow!  Being in fresh water has a host of new things to think about…like anchoring on a bottom that is covered with weeds.  This was a bear to remove as the anchor came up.  Check out the photo of the anchor…or is it…a grassy Cousin It from The Munsters?!  We moved along to anchor in French Bay off Clayton, NY (7/1).  Dinner on the grill was tequila lime chicken (recipe below) with homemade Spanish rice and Cuban black beans.  The sky went from stunning sunset to stars so bright we thought we could touch them…and the big dipper was at eye level.  Looks like we are pretty far north and can almost hear the Canada Day celebrations across the river.    


As we dinghied ashore it was clear that you are nothing if you don’t have a boat house because the river is simply another “road.”  Strolling around town clarified that the Village of Clayton is one of the cutest towns ever (7/2).  This year the Village celebrates its 150th birthday and the main drag of James Street has literally not changed an inch over that time…except that the parked Model T cars have been replaced by mini-vans and hybrid vehicles.  We bought some blueberry cheddar cheese from the River Rat Cheese shop and wound our way along waterfront parks and neat as a pin neighborhood streets.  They say that life is mellow here - on river time.  That is fine with us but don’t be fooled because this “river” is special.  It extends almost 800 miles, is part of the international boundary between the US and Canada, has had ten different whales reside within it and ocean-going cargo ships routinely pass through its waters.


Back to Barefeet where the dinghy spark plugs were changed and the main engine fluids were checked.  In order to give the dinghy a good test we opened up the engine and headed across to Aunt Jane’s Bay to explore Grindstone Island.  ATVs are the transport mode of choice on the dirt roads where dogs lope freely and kids fish for perch off of wooden docks.  It is river time.  We returned to town for a dinner of brick oven pizza at the Wood Boat Brewery.


The holiday weekend meant added boats on the water with wakes to match.  However, our anchor spot was front row center for Clayton’s Fourth of July fireworks (7/3).  Gulp, but this far north it doesn’t get dark until cruiser midnight (9pm) which made it a struggle for us to stay alert.  Thank goodness the harbor floorshow kept things interesting as boats crept out from docks ashore like dozens of water bugs while the sun fell below the horizon.  It was a festive show of colorful explosions reflecting off the river.  Happy (almost) Fourth of July!


For approximately 50 miles a stretch of the St Lawrence River is referred to as the Thousand Islands.  It’s an archipelago of more than 1700 islands that straddle both the US and Canada.  Nature is the primary attraction where granite shores are topped with dense green forests, bordered by crystal clear waters and loons sing their eerie, beautiful song.  We wrangled the anchor from the weeds of French Bay and moved a whopping 3 miles to Bathtub Bay off Picton Island (7/4).  My bruises are increasing as I dangle from the pulpit to slowly tear the weeds from the chain and anchor.  Maybe the boat hook would work better?  I’ll try that next time.


Once anchored, the calm conditions and a sunny day had us off in the dinghy to Rock Island Lighthouse and Wellesley Island.  The panoramic view from the top of the lighthouse was stunning.  Note to self: take the photo between the desiccated bugs cemented to the window.  These small (mostly) non-biting bugs are bothersome as they swarm and gross as their carcasses accumulate…EVERYWHERE.  The lighthouse tour guide said that the seasons in the Thousand Islands are categorized by the life cycle of the bugs rather than the temperature changes.  We completely understand.  Wellesley Island is quintessential Fourth of July with grass lawns stretching endlessly without fencing, bunting draped porches overflowing with friends, kids dropping bikes wherever they stop, golf carts outnumbering cars and ice cream from The Guzzle.  We dinghied home for steaks on the grill on Barefeet’s top deck after new old fashion cocktails and River Rat blueberry cheddar cheese and crackers.  Happy Fourth of July!


A single rainy day made for a lazy, inside day followed by sundowners with neighbor loopers m/v Wild Life (7/5).  Pizza, tall tales and serenading by loons was magical.  In the morning the clouds cleared and we made our way to Pullman Island to anchor off of the Thousand Island Club (7/6).  This was our launching spot for area dinghy exploration.  First to Boldt Castle - the reigning star of the area which is known as Millionaire’s Row...aka…the gilded age corner of the Thousand Islands.  We wandered the Castle’s grounds as well as its interior.  Both have been lovingly wrangled back from years of neglect after being abruptly abandoned in 1904, mid-construction, when owner George Boldt’s beloved wife, Louise, unexpectedly died.  He never set foot on the island again.  Barrels of tiles remained in the basement packed in wood shavings ready for installation that would never come.  This and other attention to detail was staggering.  A master stone mason cut each stone offsite and had them delivered to the island.  When being installed the stones had been cut so expertly that not a single one had to be re-cut.  As you can see - there were A LOT of stone cuts.  After touring the Castle we zipped across the river to the village of Alexandria Bay.  It’s a honky tonk, t-shirt shop watering hole with bars named things like Skiffs, Dockside and Riverboat.  Since the summer sun was shining it was hopping…even on a Wednesday.   


Popping into local shops I see regional canned items which has me missing my summer canning traditions.  But that can wait until next year.  For now, off we went from Millionaire’s Row to Gananoque, Canada (7/7).  We passed through the American Narrows section of the river that has all of the ocean tankers on VHF channel 13 coordinating movements with the Clayton Coast Guard.  The river is deep but narrow and would not allow for the passing of two of these enormous cargo ships at the same time.  Additionally, rocks on either side add to the dangers and have sent more than one ship to the bottom of the river.  Well, and of course at one time the lighthouse keepers house was built IN FRONT of the lighthouse.  That caused A LOT of accidents.  Our primary purpose for staying a night at the Gananoque Municipal Marina is to check into Canada.  It was a smooth check-in process with an online form submission (filed 72-hours before our arrival via the ArriveCAN app) followed by a phone call upon arrival (888-226-7277).  We enjoyed walking the town full of stone buildings, flower pots exploding with colorful blooms and having a very un-boaty evening at the theater.  But I guess that really isn’t true because the Thousand Island Playhouse is actually a vintage Canoe Club building converted into a 360-seat theater on the banks of the St Lawrence River – wow.  Dinner exploded with flavor at the Stonewater Pub – butter chicken tacos and Irish nachos (including whiskey caramelized onions) - wow.


Tossing the lines from the dock was a nice break from weed duty because my body is one big bruise.  Yes, the boat hook helps but it is a lot of contortions in, around and under the pulpit tossing off grass as the chain and anchor are slowly pulled in.  We found a cove to anchor in for the weekend near Mulcaster Island (7/8).  The water was emerald green, the sun was bright and there was lots of weekend merriment like dinghy drag races, boats rafted 7, 8, 9 together, swimming , tunes…you know the scene.  We had BLTs for dinner on the top deck and watched it all continue to unfold before heading down to bed.  Chris joined the water fun with a bit of boat work.  Barnacles were scraped (but Chesapeake City work held up), zincs were checked (all accounted for) and Barefeet’s draft was double checked ahead of the Trent-Severn Waterway (where we have to sign a waiver if we are more than 5 feet in depth, we should be 5 feet).  Yep -  we are 5 feet…check.  This area is pretty remote; however, Chris found a fancy restaurant for dinner.  It’s The Ivy Restaurant.  We tarted up and dinghied over.  We felt quite fancy with stunning island views, delicious food and table settings complete with new cutlery for each course (7/9).  It was a relaxing night.


Up came the anchor on a mirror calm morning.  We made our way back to Lake Ontario via the Bateau Channel around Howe Island (7/10).  The wind picked up back on the lake which made docking at Confederation Basin Marina in Kingston a slower process than usual.  We made an initial stroll through town which was lively on a Sunday afternoon.  There were street performers (buskers), al fresco dining under umbrellas, brew pubs and camping/hiking stores.  We settled in at Kingston Brewing Company.  Kicking off our Canada food adventures we had poutine (French fries, brown gravy and cheese curds).  Yum!  And chatted with locals with a lively banter…one a student at Queen’s University law school (from Portugal), another a self-described townie (and required to dislike Uni students), bartendress (amused at her recent job switch to a state job where they cannot ask her age…but her bar boss/friend once described her as a chunky Taylor Swift) and bearded sullen guy.  It was a fun and relaxed and interesting evening.


We were all set to stay in Kingston for two nights (even paid for two nights at the marina).  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.  Pivot.  Looks like bad weather is coming in tomorrow which will make the wide open lake really uncomfortable.  Drat!  But okay – we’ll leave today about 11am.  That gave us just enough time to wander the lovely campus of Queen’s University and have another Canada food adventure…the butter tart.  The gang at the bar gave us a few tips – they need to look irregular (not factory sameness), crust must be flakey and raisins are a plus.  To us they are a lot like a pecan pie without the pecans.  The morning wrapped up with a supermarket/liquor run, laundry and tossing of the trash.  We edged closer to the Trent-Severn Waterway to anchor off Willow Point in Hay Bay…complete with farms and silos ashore (7/11).


Trent-Severn Waterway or bust!  Cannot believe we are finally doing this.  But boating plans are never perfect.  Strong winds were noisy but not bouncy as we made our way to Trenton but the real kicker was the rain (7/12) .  Just off the Trenton Marina and the skies opened up – I mean poured like CRAZY.  Yikes!  On went the radar and we slowed way down to crawl the last mile or so to the first lock.  The rain passed and was replaced with blue skies.  Phew but sheesh.  At lock #1 we paid for our one way lock transit pass ($5.10/ft, Canadian dollar), signed a waiver because our draft is more than 5ft, posted the sticker and continued on our way.  The locking process was smooth and relaxed with a hip and stern tie to plastic covered cables.  The wooden doors were opened and closed manually by lock tenders (many high school or college students on summer break).  Once raised we had nice chats with the lock tenders…usually discussing where we all were for the downpour as well as where to have dinner once tied up on the blue line of the wall ahead of Lock #6 in Frankford.  Dimitri’s was the enthusiastic pick.  So off we went.  Wow – Greek nachos…where have you been all my life?!  Tied up on the blue line means we are ready for the first lock opening in the morning.  It was a peacefull night and we slept soundly.  From here we will continue along the Waterway through a total of 45 locks, 240 miles and out into Georgian Bay.  Yahoo!


Tequila Lime Chicken (Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa) serves 6
cup gold tequila
1 cup lime juice
cup orange juice
1 T. chili powder
1 T jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 T garlic, minced
2 t salt
1 t black pepper
3 whole boneless chicken breasts

Combine and mix together all ingredients except chicken.
Add chicken breasts and marinate overnight.
Heat grill and oil rack to avoid sticking.
Remove chicken from marinade and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill skin side down about 5 minutes until browned.
Turn over and cook another 10 minutes until just cooked through.
Remove from grill.  Cover tightly and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Serve warm or room temperature.