Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Welcome to Clarke's Court Bay Marina, in Woburn, Grenada, also known as Paradise. The food is good and the company is even better.

We were anchored in the bay just off the marina for three weeks and now ‘Beach House’ is on the dock ……

…… while Geoff sorts out the wind generators, the batteries, and the bilge alarm. We’ve also taken down our enclosure and scrubbed the fabric with a bleach solution while we have access to lots of fresh water for rinsing. We'll water-proof the enclosure tomorrow. Or the next day.

This isn't a high end, slick, expensive marina.

It's better. There's a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere. We may never leave.

Wednesday is cheeseburger night and there’s always a full house.

Cruisers dinghy in from the surrounding anchorages and the marina offers an inexpensive shuttle service from St. George’s and Prickly Bay.

Rene cooks up the cheeseburgers ……


……and all the trimmings are just inside the door. Despite being surrounded by great fishing grounds, cruisers do love their cheeseburgers and fries.

On alternate Friday nights, Rene whips up English-style fish and chips with great slaw on the side. Check out the popularity of this event.

That’s Cheryl, Rene’s wife, dishing up at the serving tables.

As the evening winds down, there’s another cruiser favourite on fish and chip night –

- ice cream. This is our friend Kitty from ‘Falcon’. Yes. Her name is Kitty. We call this picture The Two Kitties.

Every Saturday evening, the marina hosts a cruiser pot luck dinner. It's not often a restaurant allows you to bring your own food. But there’s plenty to do here at CCBM besides eat. On Sunday afternoons, there’s Mexican Train Dominoes.

By the way, only one of those drink glasses is mine. And the pool table is available anytime. There are showers, washing machines and drying lines, and excellent wifi. Just to complete the retirement home atmosphere, on Friday mornings, the marina provides a bus to the shopping mall.

The big screen TV behind the bar gets a lot of use.

There are sporting events some mornings, and WII games, like 10 pin bowling and tennis.

There are occasional experts in for talks and demonstrations, and DVD concerts for our listening and viewing pleasure during the evening.
Bob, the owner of the marina, brings in live entertainers every now and then. This solo steel pan player ……

…… got a kick out of Bob taking the mic and channeling Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”. The man can sing and has charm to spare.

You’ve already met Rene and Cheryl in some of the earlier pix.

They’re cruisers from Ontario who have been helping at the bar and restaurant for a couple of seasons. They live on their boat, ‘Gypsy Blues’, at the dock. Good people.

You might be thinking that this marina could be anywhere – a great clubhouse/restaurant, sturdy, safe docks, and fun-filled functions. But it’s not just anywhere. It’s in Grenada with its near perfect weather. And all the cruisers we spend time with have traveled thousands of miles to get here. That simple fact makes for quick and easy bonding.

So I’m sure you’ve noticed the day on this entry. Yes, it’s cheeseburger night. Good God Almighty which way do we steer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The Erie Canal opened in 1825, linking the Great Lakes with the Hudson River. Over the next century, the canals were enlarged and updated three times, adding links to the St. Lawrence River. Commercial traffic on the canal system declined dramatically in the last half of the 1900s, but the number of recreational boats has increased steadily. Today the New York State Canal System is being revitalized to enhance tourism to this historic resource.

Welcome to our 2008 Erie Canal experience on ‘Beach House’.
See that sailboat on Lake Ontario?
No, it’s not us, but just south of that is Oswego. That's where ‘Beach House’ entered the canal system ……
…… and where we turned our sailboat into a motor boat. The bridges along the canal system have an overhead clearance of 15-20 feet – barely enough room for small trawlers to clear, let alone us with a 63 foot mast.
The Oswego Marina had a two man crew at their mast crane to lift the mast and then lower it onto the deck.

            Geoff designed and built a cradle for our mast to sit on deck. It needed to be low enough to go under the bridges, but high enough so that the crew didn’t knock themselves senseless when moving around the boat during locking duties. On occasion I could’ve used a helmet.

It was quite late in the day when we finished securing the mast, the lines and the shrouds. We left Oswego Marina and tied up to the free wall just before the first lock on the Oswego canal. This was a pretty rough wall -

– but it was free – guess you get what you pay for. Our new inflatable fenders were being sent to a boatyard still ahead of us, but we were just as happy to be using our old fenders and a fender board forward.

We walked up to the lock master’s office and bought our 10-day canal pass for $50 US, then returned to ‘Beach House’ and broke out “the-we-are-here-beer” and “the-life-is-fine-wine”. We planned to start the locking adventure in the morning.

These lock walls had been refurbished recently -
– they were smooth and clean – that’s why I was smiling. But notice the work gloves I had on. They're recommended because many of the lock walls are grimy, greasy and disgusting. Even that ten foot 'pole' lets you get up close and personal to the sludgy wall. Here we were locking up. We entered the lock at low water, the lockmaster closed the gates behind us and started filling the lock. When the water reached the high water mark you can see in the picture, the forward gates opened and we proceeded. This lock only took us up 8 feet – a good 'starter lock' - we hadn't done this for a couple of years. Most of the locks carry you up or down 18-20 feet.

This is the free dock at Minetto ......
...... about half way along the 24 mile Oswego Canal. The town is tiny, but the dock is right beside a small park that has showers and washrooms for boaters who stop for the night. There was no charge, but a sign said donations were welcome. We were happy to put some dollars in an envelope and drop it through the mail slot.

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, a group of kids, known as The Bridge House Brats ...... boaters with tying up, getting water, and using the pump out here on the free wall at Phoenix. We had the place to ourselves however – it was already a week into October.

Just a few miles away is Three Rivers, the junction of the Oswego, Oneida and Seneca Rivers. Here, we turned left to go east, joining the Erie Canal at its half way point.

The first lock on the Erie Canal traveling east from the Oswego Canal is Lock 23. As we were locking through, Pete the lockmaster asked if we’d like to join him for coffee in the morning. We were in no hurry, so we stopped for the night, telling Pete we’d see him about 0730. This is the free dock at Lock 23, ......

...... new and one of the best tie-ups along the way. Low bridge ahead, by the way. Everybody down.

The next morning after an hour of chat and coffee with Pete, discussing economics, politics, and religion ……

…… we posed for a picture with our new friend.

Then Pete gave us a little tour of the lock workings. It’s the original equipment from the 1915 update, but lovingly maintained to museum standards. He was very proud and rightfully so.

Pete had one more surprise for us. His little garden beside the lock was offering its last hurrah.
The few remaining cherry tomatoes needed a good home. We were happy to oblige.

Our next stop was just around the bend – Ess-Kay Yards in Brewerton, NY, on the west side of Oneida Lake.
We tied up at the dock for a couple of days, since we were waiting for a couple of packages, Geoff had a couple of projects to do, and it was a good opportunity to visit with the owners, Kim and her family, who’d been so good to us in 2006.

That was the year we had tried to take ‘Beach House’ to the Bahamas, but she said “NO – not this year”. We’d made the tough decision to abort the trip and were on our way back to Toronto, then got stranded in Brewerton for 11 days, when the canal system closed due to high water and debris.

This picture was taken November 1, 2006. Oh, how very far we’ve come.
But back to 2008. After enjoying the Ess-Kay Yards perks – good people, hot showers, 30A electric, use of a courtesy car – we took ‘Beach House’ 20 miles across Oneida Lake ……

…… to the free wall at Sylvan Beach, a sleepy little beach town.

It was here that we met up with ……
…… Pat and Buz, relatives of our good cruising friends on ‘Sea Schell’, Harry and Melinda. We went off together for a long lunch and laughed ourselves silly - a good, good time.

After Sylvan Beach, we locked up through two more locks, getting to our highest elevation of 420 feet above sea level. Then from Lock 20 eastward, we were locking down.

Much of the Erie Canal is actually the Mohawk River.
The October scenery was spectacular.

No wonder the crew was smiling.

Next stop was Little Falls.
There was a charge to spend the night here, roughly a dollar a foot, unusually expensive for the canal system, but the hot private showers in the new terminal building were excellent.

Just past Little Falls is Lock 17, the largest single step lock on the Erie Canal, at 40.5 feet elevation.

And Lock 17 is unique for another reason. The eastern gate of the lock lifts over the boats. It’s a little spooky going under that weight – and it’s very wet, a sheet of water pouring down. We do love our enclosure.

Two more leisurely days of locking down and we arrived at Waterford, New York ...... …… where the Erie Canal meets the Hudson River.

This was my view from the galley.

Glory days!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Well, let's be honest. We weren't always feelin' groovy when navigating the hundreds of bridges along the Intracoastal Waterway (the ICW). But there was just no fighting it. The bridges with their varied and sometimes confusing restrictions, and the bridge masters with their varied and sometimes crusty personalities, were just part of the journey. Smile and relax - just "slow down, you move too fast”. All those bridges were definitely going to "make the morning last".

There are two main types of bridges along the ICW, fixed bridges and opening bridges. The fixed bridges are built 65 feet off the water, but tides, wind, and rainfall affect the actual clearance.

As we approached a fixed bridge, we used the binoculars to check the water height boards, which told us how the water variables affected the bridge clearance.

In this case, the water level was up a bit, but we still had 64 feet of clearance - plenty of room for our 62 foot mast. But we discovered an important rule.

DO NOT LOOK UP. Geoff saw our VHF antenna at the top of the mast bobble as we passed under one of the bridges. I was otherwise occupied. Intentionally.

The other type of bridge on the ICW is the opening bridge. The most common is the bascule bridge, which consists of one or more spans hinged at one end while the other end rises vertically. This was our approach to the single bascule bridge at New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

So plenty of open sky, but check out the right to left clearance. And there are boats in front of you and boats behind you, all jockeying for position and fighting the currents that make passage interesting around the bridges.

The opening bridges offered a whole new exercise in math and patience. I quite enjoyed playing with the mileages and bridge restrictions to plot our day’s progress. But the restrictions varied from one bridge to the next.

- opens on request
- opens on request, except for am/pm traffic rush hours
- opens every hour on the hour
- opens every half hour, top and bottom
- opens every half hour, quarter to and quarter after
- opens every fifteen minutes

Our favourite restriction was for railroad bridges – “open unless train coming”. How very good to know.
Especially for the train.