Friday, August 30, 2013

Grenadier Island

Grenadier Island is one of the components of St Lawrence Islands National Park.  This National Park was the first east of the Rocky Mountains, founded in the early 1900’s.  It is made up of 19 islands (or portions of Islands) in the Thousand Island group, stretching from outside of Kingston almost up to Brockville.

There is a fee to use the Islands, which is collected through self-payment kiosks at the docks on each Island.  Although we haven’t visited many of the Islands, we often anchor off their shores.  Yesterday, we cruised up to Grenadier Island, which is the farthest east we have been since we arrived in Kingston, about 15 nautical miles east of Gananoque.

Grenadier is a fairly large Island, and is a mixture of private land and National Park.  There are four distinct areas of National Park on the Island.  We anchored off the central park, and dingied up to the dock.  After paying our admission fee (a whole $3.20 for day use for an 8 foot boat), we wandered up the trail to the other side of the Island. There are quite a few campsites on this Island, but they were all empty.  After grabbing a geocache, we strolled along the Old Township Road.

The old schoolhouse on Grenadier Island
Until the 1960’s, Grenadier was a farming community.  A number of farming families maintained fairly substantial farms, despite the difficulties in getting produce and goods on and off the Island, particularly in winter.  Today, the private area of the Island is mainly made up of summer cottages.  Even today, getting supplies to the Islands, particularly construction supplies, can be challenging since there are no bridges or roads.  Boats are the principal means of transportation, and barges are hired to bring more substantial items to the Islands.  

The Old Township Road - or what is left of it today
The remnants of the old township road still exist on the Island, running from one end to the other.  However, today this is little more than a maintained cart track, which the residents seem to use for off-road vehicles.  Just outside of the park boundary and along the Old Township Road, the Island schoolhouse is still standing.  This school was abandoned in 1963, when the population had withered down to three students.

Monday, August 26, 2013


We have been fortunate to have lots of friends and family visit us this summer. Whether for an evening aboard, a day trip with lunch and swimming, or a few days out, we love sharing something we love doing with our friends and family.

A few weeks ago our friends Michelle and Sean and their two girls, Kaitlyn and Emma, came from PEI for a 5 day visit. My Obsession theoretically sleeps 6. However, the v-berth has been retrofitted as an office. This means that really we have the two single berths in the main cabin and our bed in the stern cabin. Jay and I are perfectly comfortable aboard, but unlike our house in PEI which can sleep 10, we do not have a lot of room for overnight visitors. I warned our friends that they were welcome to stay aboard, but quarters would be tight. Now, our friends Alison and Steve and their two little boys have a power boat, a cruiser, at Collins Bay that has more beds and they offered overnight accommodations too.

Michelle and Sean and the girls arrived late in the evening, around 9:30pm. We made beds up for the girls on the settees and stayed up in the cockpit, chatting until late. Rather than disturb Alison and Steve on their boat due to the late hour, Michelle and Sean decided they would sleep in the cockpit that first night. Especially with the full enclosure, this would be similar to sleeping in a tent. Everyone managed to get some sleep and the next day, both boats headed out to Kerr Bay.

We anchored in the Bay and spent the next two days back and forth between the two boats. Watching the four kids fish, swimming, motoring around in the dinghy, reading, playing board games, water fights with pool noodles and noodle blasters, BBQing, kayaking, floating on pool noodle chairs, laughing and chatting - the two days were a blur of sun, fun, good food and great friends. We even had a surprise party at anchor to celebrate Michelle finishing her degree. A couple of nights the kids slept on the power boat with Alison and Steve and the boys, leaving just the four of us on My Obsession. The last night the girls slept in the cockpit – their chance to try that out. All week, the boat was bursting at the seams with people and stuff. We were having a blast.

Michelle and Sean and the girls left on the Friday. Alison and Steve and the boys headed back to their farm. By Friday evening, My Obsession was back in order, all neat and tidy with everything in its place - and feeling very big, very empty and definitely lonely.         

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Navy Islands – Stave and Hickey Islands

In the Thousand Islands group known as the Navy Islands, there is nice large anchorage to northeast of Stave Island and east of Hickey Island. If you approach from the west you can enter it several ways. We often enter by coming through Gananoque Narrows and then round the southeast of Stave Island and enter through a small channel. There are several rocks to pick your way around, but they are marked. The channel shallows to about 9 feet, but once inside you can anchor in about 15 to 20 feet. We anchored here several times last year and on the long weekend of July we thought we would try it again. When we arrived we were the only sailboat out of the 6 boats in the anchorage.

We put Ducky in the water and decided to explore. The cruising guide recommends dinghying through the narrow channel between Hickey and Stave Islands, through what is known as Molly’s Gut. According to the guide it is a major fish spawning and nursery area and you can see lots of fish, and so they recommend no motors in the passage. We motored across the anchorage and then turned off the engine as we entered the narrow passage. Our dinghy is only 8 feet long, so when you are rowing it is a bit hard for the other adult to stay out of the way. Nonetheless with some jockeying, Jay was rowing and I was hanging over the side, the camera close by, looking for fish.

The water is very clear in Molly’s Gut and the two islands rise up on either side, with lush trees overhanging the passage. How beautiful it was. The afternoon sun was slightly shaded in the narrow passage, and a silence seemed to fall over us as we made our way up the Gut, drifting more than rowing.  I was enjoying the peace and beauty around us. However, despite our clear view of the weedy bottom, we discovered the fish were rarer than hen’s teeth. We saw nothing moving beneath us. Jay was ready to turn on the engine, pointing out we could hardly disturb something that wasn’t there. I resisted, still hopeful that we would see something. 

There is a small marsh area on the west side of Hickey and Jay gamely rowed on, our little rubber dinghy plodding along, sweat starting to bead on Jay’s forehead as the sun emerged from behind the islands.  Every time Jay mentioned he wanted to turn on the engine, I asked him to wait just a little longer as I continued my vigil for the elusive fish.  

We were almost across the marsh when a pontoon boat, both its outboards chugging along, entered from the far side of Curtis Island. They waved merrily to us as they sped by and entered Molly’s Gut without killing their engines. The occupants of the pontoon boat had apparently not read the cruising guide about no motors in the Gut. Either that or because no one had been reading the guide, the fish had packed up and moved elsewhere and we were the only ones who did not realize there was nothing left to protect. As the sound from their engines faded in the distance, Jay looked at me as if to say, see now we can turn on the engine. He reached for the pull cord on the engine.

Before Jay could pull the cord, we noticed a flash of white in the tall grass along the shore of Curtis Island. Now it was Jay who let his hand fall from the engine pull cord as we watched the swans usher their small ones deeper in the weeds. I reached for the camera, as Jay tried to row us closer, but we were not able to get a really clear view without getting too close. After a few minutes of watching the graceful swans, Jay rowed us out the other side of Curtis Island and we motored back to the anchorage. Even though there were no fish, leaving the engine off had still afforded us a glimpse of the peace and graceful beauty of the swan family.    

Monday, July 22, 2013

West On Lake Ontario - Kingston to Coburg

On July 11th we headed out for a week of sailing, exploring anchorages west of Collins Bay in Lake Ontario. We couldn’t leave until I had finished work for the day, so it was early evening when we left the dock. That meant our first night out would be Kerr Bay, the closest anchorage to Collins Bay. We had a nice sail to Kerr Bay in 14 knot winds.

The next morning I finished up some last minute work I needed to complete and we left at 1pm. Winds were light, 3 knots, and the temperature was nearing 30 degrees Celsius. We motored up Adolphus Reach, grateful for the small breeze created by our apparent wind. As we approached the bay leading in to Picton we could see about 80 or more sailboats of all sizes competing in the EYC regatta. The wind was now about 8 knots, and spinnakers were flying. As the wind picked up, we turned north and the wind was now dead on our nose. Alas, the fate of cruisers it seems. We motored up Long Reach to Desoronto. It was approaching 5:30pm when we arrived off Desoronto. Winds were light so we anchored off Forrester’s Island. The water looked a bit brown so we decided not to swim, but made supper and relaxed for the evening.

The next morning, July 13, we did a few boat chores and then around 11am pulled anchor and headed towards Trenton. It was hot and sunny and the winds were about 7 knots so we were motorsailing. While passing through Telegraph Narrows we met almost 100 speedboats participating in a poker run. It was a bit daunting to look behind you and see them stretching out in what seemed to be an unbroken line racing full tilt towards you. Around 2:30pm we decided to anchor and dropped the hook off Indian Island near Trenton. We relaxed for a bit and then decided to stain the cockpit seats. In the heat with the small breeze they were dry to the touch in no time.

On July 14th, we pulled anchor around 9:00am and motored in light winds to the entrance to the Murray Canal. From the Bay of Quinte, the Murray Canal leads 5 nautical miles into Presqu’ile Bay. The Canal operates from about 9am until 4:30pm and costs $5. There are two swing bridges to pass through. As you approach the Brighton Road Bridge, they hold out a small bucket on the end of a long pole and you deposit your money in it as you motor past.   It was another hot and sunny day with light winds so we alternately sailed and motorsailed out of Presqu’ile Bay and into Lake Ontario. We had a lovely pasta lunch ghosting slowly along under sail around 1pm. Around 4pm we arrived in Coburg. We anchored in the lovely harbour inside the breakwater and dinghied in to shore. The marina charges $12 a night to anchor there and use their facilities. The marina is run by the town and has good facilities, including laundry. We decided to stay a few days and explore Coburg.  

Coburg is 56 miles east of Toronto. It has a lovely long sandy beach on the waterfront, a marina, food and other provisions within walking distance and lots of nice restaurants. One of the neat things are the upright pianos found on street corners in the downtown. Whimsically decorated, these pianos are there for the use of any passerby. We enjoyed seeing them and listening to people with varying levels of talent tickle the ivories as we strolled the downtown.  We had a lovely dinner one night on an outdoor patio with live music and had fun popping in to the shops, geocaching and exploring the downtown.

After two nights we had a decision to make – further west or return east to meet up with friends for the coming weekend. Friends won out and around 11am on the 16th, we topped our fuel and water tanks and headed from Coburg back east. Again it was over 30 degrees and sunny as we headed back to Presquile Bay. We arrived too late to make the Murray Canal, so we anchored in the Bay, which was full of swans. The winds picked up to gusts of almost 20 knots before dying down to light overnight, but despite the weedy bottom our anchor held nicely. We watched a movie on the laptop in the cockpit and enjoyed the sunset on another beautiful day.

On the 17th we made our way through the Murray Canal and past Trenton and Belleville to Picton. We stopped just after lunch to try and assist a 32 foot sailboat that had run aground, but they were hard aground and our dinghy motor was not powerful enough to make a difference. As we waited nearby for the auxiliary Coast Guard to come and help them, we watched a large thunderstorm pass by to the north of us. If we had continued without stopping to assist the other sailboat, we would have been right in the middle of heavy rain and lightening. After the other boat was safely off the rocks and underway, we made a late lunch then continued east. We arrived outside of Picton around 6pm and anchored.

The next morning we took the dinghy into Picton, about 1.5 NM each way, and had breakfast. We wandered around Picton, picked up groceries and popped into a few shops then headed back to My Obsession. Realizing we were in need of a pumpout, we motored My Obsession in to the town dock in Picton. This was made more difficult when the key to open the sewer and water tanks broke. It was so hot, the rubber had swelled and the keys did not want to turn. We solved it with running cold water over the top until it shrunk enough it would turn. Then we headed to Kerr Bay to rendez-vous with our friends, Alison and Steve and their boys.  

That night we visited aboard our friends’ boat, playing cards until the whole anchorage was quiet. About midnight we were ready to return to My Obsession. I did not want to awaken the whole anchorage by turning on the motor, so I convinced Jay to sit beside me and paddle Ducky back. It quickly became clear our rubber Ducky was not meant to be paddled. Jay was taking one stroke for every two or three of mine and we were not moving in a straight line. Chagrined that I was doing all the work, I asked him to paddle. He started paddling and immediately we turned in a full circle. Obviously his strokes were stronger than mine. You know that feeling when you are trying to be quiet, but you really just want to laugh out loud, and so as you try to muffle your laughter it just becomes harder and harder and everything seems even funnier? Well it struck me at that moment. There I was laughing so hard I was doubled over, unable to paddle at all and afraid I would wet myself from laughing so hard and Jay was still paddling us in a circle. He stopped paddling and just looked at me. Then he broke out into laughter too. After a minute we got ourselves under control and managed to paddle past two other boats to ours and get ourselves aboard. 

 July 19th was hot, but very windy. The wind was gusting in Kerr Bay to 30 and 35 knots. We were reluctant to leave the boat as several boats were dragging, ours included. The night before had been light winds and we had not let out additional scope when the winds picked up the next morning. We were sitting in the cockpit enjoying a coffee when we noticed we were dragging. We quickly hauled up the anchor and moved to the other side of the Bay to reset. At the same time, a 33 foot sailboat pulled its anchor to reset. They moved to the side of the bay we had just come from. They sailed figure eights and back and forth across the bay for 15 minutes. There was a couple aboard and the guy kept running from the bow to the cockpit to speak to the woman who was on the wheel and then back to the bow. One or more of them must have been inexperienced because there seemed to be a lot of wild gestures and yelling and circling. It took them almost a half hour to rest their anchor. I kept a close eye on them the rest of the day as I was afraid they would drag again.

It took two tries before we were comfortable our anchor would hold, now with double the scope out. But we had a small almost disaster. As we had pulled up the dragging anchor I had notice the line and the life ring were not in place on the stern. I prudently put them back on the holder and made sure that Ducky was pulled in close so that the dinghy painter could not get caught in the propeller. After we had managed to reset the anchor to our satisfaction, I glanced over my shoulder and saw that the life ring line was taught and was stretching under the boat.  The wind had tossed us around a bit as we crossed the Bay and the line had fallen again into the water unnoticed. As I had not felt anything different with the wheel or the engine I hoped it was not badly tangled. I called Jay back from the bow with that hint of panic in my voice which always brings him in a hurry. We dug out his snorkel gear and he slipped into the water. Luckily, it had obviously just happened right before I had killed the engine and it was not tightly wound. He was able to unwind it without cutting the line and after inspection of the prop and shaft, we were relieved to find no damage. Crisis averted. There were some heavy winds and thunderstorms that evening, with gusts to almost 40 knots, but the anchor didn’t drag.   

On July 20th we spent the morning swimming and visiting with our friends and then around 1pm they headed back in to Collins Bay and we headed to the Thousand Islands. We had only two nights left of vacation, but weren’t ready to go back yet. As we were passing the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque I mused aloud that I wondered what was playing. A quick phone call later and we were changing course to head towards the Playhouse. They had tickets available to the play and they had room on their dock. Only challenge was the show was at 8pm and it was now 7:25pm. We quickly found our fenders and docklines, and pulled up. Theatre goers on the patio overlooking the water must have wondered at us as we pulled up, scurried around to make My Obsession secure and cleaned ourselves up enough so we were presentable to attend a play. The play was great fun and we walked into town for a late dinner afterwards. The night was a bit bouncy as the dock is not well protected and any passing boats kick up a wake, so I probably wouldn’t stay on that dock overnight again.    

The next day we headed back to Collins Bay, anchoring off Milton Island for lunch and a nap. By 6pm we were in our slip, having recorded 243 NM for the week and sorry the adventure was at an end.