The Finish Line

Lifted RR Bridge

Lifted RR Bridge

The Illinois Waterway is 325 miles from downtown Chicago to its convergence with the Mississippi River in Grafton, IL. This stretch of the trip includes 8 locks where waiting a couple of hours for barge traffic is not uncommon. The scenery improved the further we traveled south and west downstream. But we spotted many of the flying Asian Carp along its length, sometimes smacking into the side of our boat.

The Tiki Bar and Beach from our Dock

The Tiki Bar and Beach from our Dock

On August 14th we went through the Brandon Road Lock in Joliet and the Dresden Island Lock, where we had a 2-1/2 hour wait. Along the way we spotted a deer and saw many water skiers and tubers out enjoying the great weather. We pulled into the Anchor In Marina in Seneca, and paid Rhonda, the bartender at the Tiki Bar for our slip.

Rhonda - Tiki Bartender

Rhonda – Tiki Bartender

We had a fun 2-night stay there, and met many of the locals and people from the nearby campground. One of them gave me a ride to the grocery store for a few items. Jim got a fast boat ride on the river. We took ‘real’ showers and swapped stories around the Tiki Bar.

As we were getting ready to cast off on Saturday morning, Rhonda yelled across the water that she had something for us. Soon she came hurrying down the dock with a gift for us – two bottles of champagne. It was another memorable stop on our journey!

Flocks of Pelicans Overhead in Lock

Flocks of Pelicans Circling Overhead in Lock

We stopped at a marina a mile downriver for a pump-out and bought some fuses for our macerator switch. The skies were overcast, but only a few raindrops fell throughout the day. We went through the Marseilles and Starved Rock Locks, both with one other pleasure boat. Huge flocks of pelicans circled overhead while locking through, and we saw six deer on shore. We went through the towns of Ottawa and Peru where sections of the river were lined with rocky bluffs. We pulled up to an old beat-up barge in the town of Hennepin where we tied up for

Tied to Barge 'Wall' in Hennepin, IL

Tied to Barge ‘Wall’ in Hennepin, IL

the night. It wasn’t the most picturesque of places, but the price was right! We grilled dinner and laid low.

Sunday the 17th was our 35th wedding anniversary. Jim climbed up over the railing to the sidewalk in the morning and went to a marine and hardware store for more fuses and a switch. We shoved off, passing a couple of barges, but had no locks to slow us down. Some sort of kayak event was taking place on the river, as we passed by hundreds of them along the way.

Our 35th Anniversary at Alexander's Steak House

Our 35th Anniversary at Alexander’s Steak House

 

 

We had a slip reserved in Peoria at Wharf Harbor Sales. The owners were celebrating their 52nd anniversary the following day. We got tied into our slip, then popped the cork on one of our bottles of champagne. We enjoyed it on our back deck, and watched some of the locals coming back into the harbor toward evening.

Shooting Asian Carp

Shooting Asian Carp

After showers we walked up the hill to Alexander’s Steak House where we celebrated with the finest meal I think we had on the entire loop trip.

Monday morning we shoved off, wishing the owner’s a happy anniversary. Many Asian Carp were jumping along the way, and we passed a pontoon painted like the General Lee car from the Dukes of Hazard. From the back of the pontoon a young man was shooting at them with bows and arrows. We had over a 2-hour wait at the Peoria Lock. With no place to tie up, we idled and drifted, and after the tow boat cleared we were finally able to lock through.

Giant Rubber Ducky in East Peoria

Giant Rubber Ducky in East Peoria

We made it to the Tall Timbers Marina at Mile 120. The setting and layout reminded us both a little of the marina in Clifton, Tennessee. Bob, the owner was a super nice guy. While I did laundry, Jim scrubbed the outside of the boat. The neighbor aboard a Catamaran loaned him a Swiffer-like gadget, which Jim dropped and watched as it slowly sank to the muddy bottom. With the help of the neighbor, each using a telescopic boat hook, they were able to retrieve it. Such teamwork!

Flock of White Pelicans at Rest

Flock of White Pelicans at Rest

The marina was the last one on the Illinois River, so Bob suggested an anchorage about 60 miles downstream for the following night. A morning thunderstorm delayed our departure, but we set out soon afterward. We encountered many barges on our travels that day, most going south. The rain clouds moved on, and soon it got warm and muggy. Again we saw many Asian Carp jumping out of the murky water.

Broken Barge on Shore - Deer in Background

Broken Barge on Shore – Deer in Background

At the LaGrange Lock we had no wait, and floated in the middle instead of holding the lines along the side. We scoped out our anchorage on the upstream point of Blue Island, and dropped the hook in about 9 feet of water. It was a quiet evening with herons, a pileated woodpecker and an eagle our company. We saw no other boat traffic, and the katydids chorused at us loudly from the trees along the river.

Blue Island - Mile 59 - Illinois River

Blue Island – Mile 59 – Illinois River

The wake from a passing barge the following morning turned us around 180 degrees, and eventually we turned back, our bow once again into the current. After breakfast and our usual morning routine, we pulled up anchor and began the final day of our Great Loop adventure. Mist and fog rolled in the surrounding hills.

Encountering many barges along the way, we cruised downstream for the remaining 59 miles at about 9 knots. The air was

No Longer in its Prime

No Longer in its Prime

muggy, and in the afternoon the wind picked up. Sand became more prevalent on the islands and shorelines. We played “Lovely Cruise” by Jimmy Buffett, and I shed a few tears. Finally the familiar white cliffs below Grafton and the mighty Mississippi came into view. Right at this juncture is the Grafton Harbor Marina, where we pulled into our reserved slip with the help of two dock hands.

The Last Lock on our Great Loop Trip

The Last Lock on our Great Loop Trip

With mixed emotions we celebrated the completion of our Great Loop adventure with our last bottle of champagne. We had done it! Through all the planning, trials and tribulations, challenges, the sites and places and people we’d encountered, it seemed impossible that it was over. It had become a way of life, cruising on the ever-changing waterways, learning and seeing  new places with eyes wide open.

White Cliffs South of Grafton - Mississippi River

White Cliffs South of Grafton – Mississippi River

The marina, being a Great Loop sponsor, gave us a complimentary bottle of wine from the local winery. We showered, and met Tom and Lou in the pool, a couple who keep their boat at the marina and drive it to work when the weather allows. Evening thunderheads began blossoming overhead. The skies got very dark, and we added extra lines and battened down the hatches for the impending severe thunderstorm. Soon lightning strikes were visible all around us. The strong winds switched directions, and miraculously the storm seemed to divide above us. We ended up with only a few big drops of rain, although we heard later that many areas nearby got several inches and high winds with flash flooding.

Elaborate Duck Blind?

Elaborate Duck Blind?

Tom and Lou picked us up in their pristine 1976 convertible (which they called their golf cart) and took us to an old tavern in town for pizza and drinks. They were a very interesting couple who own their own business making, among other things, motorized scooters that look like little Harley’s.

Boat in the Sling - St. Charles, MO

Boat in the Sling – St. Charles, MO

On Aug 21st, we left the marina in the sweltering 100 degree heat and humidity and headed up the Mississippi a few miles north to Polestar Marina in St. Charles, Missouri. Here we cleaned out the boat, did laundry, and Jim changed the oil and filters on the main engine and the generator. We rented a car, packed, and cleaned out the fridge. The next day the boat was hauled out, and we discussed work items to be done while we are back home.

Hungry and Adventurous Deaf/Mute Kayakers

Hungry and Adventurous Deaf/Mute Kayakers

On the road trip back we followed the Mississippi to the Henson’s, our friends in Hamilton, IL. It still felt like part of the adventure, with sweeping vistas of the river in Louisiana, MO, an encounter with deaf/mute kayakers paddling their way down the entire length of the river, a stop in Clarksville and a layover in Hannibal, home of Mark Twain. The kayakers had stopped in Elk River at one of our former neighbors who lives on the Mississippi, and he told us about them. Such chance that we happened to run into them!

The visit with our friends in Hamilton was memorable as usual, and included a fish fry at the South Side Boater’s Club, sunset at the Lakeview Campground, and drinks and laughs around the fire in Vickey and Harold’s back yard.

View of Mississippi River from Park in Louisiana, MO

View of Mississippi River from Park in Louisiana, MO

Our Shredded & Faded Great Loop Burgee - We Crossed our Wake!
Our Shredded & Faded Great Loop Burgee – We Crossed our Wake!

 

We are home now, and happy to be re-connecting with family and friends. Our plan is to get back on board A-RIVER-DERCI II in late October, and cruise back down to Florida. Hope to see some of those we met along the way out on the water! I’ll leave you with a portion of the lyrics from Jimmy Buffett’s ‘Lovely Cruise':

These moments we’re left with; May you always remember; These moments are shared by few; There’s wind in our hair; And there’s water in our shoes; Honey, it’s been a lovely cruise.

For stats on our Great Loop trip, please check out the Stats tab.

 

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SE Lake Michigan & The Windy City

The Musical Fountain show on our last evening in Grand Haven did not disappoint, with different songs played than the previous night. I’m glad we got to see the beautiful ever-changing lighted fountains a second time.

Playing Chess on Sidewalk Table

Playing Chess on Sidewalk Table

We got going fairly early on Wed, August 6th. Again, we encountered patches of fog, but it was another perfect cruising day with light winds. The only complaint I had was being inundated by biting flies. I don’t understand where they come from, suddenly honing in on our dirty old boat when we’re five miles offshore! But the fly swatter got a good workout.

We had difficulty getting a slip in South Haven, as the town was gearing up for the National Blueberry Festival. We ended up in the south Municipal Marina – a great location for its proximity to town. We wandered through some shops, got ice cream cones and played a game of chess on a sidewalk table. Jim got a much-needed new pair of shorts and a cap that says, “Great Lakes, Unsalted”.

Pirate Ship Mast in South Haven, MI

Pirate Ship Mast in South Haven, MI

Back at the marina I did a couple of loads of laundry and we took real showers. We chatted with a few of the neighboring boat owners, planned our next day’s jaunt, and watched “The Immigrant” on Netflix.

Late Thursday morning we pulled out of our slip and motored further up the river to a fuel dock, where we filled up. It was expensive, but we try to keep the tanks above half full so as not to clog up the filters with the crud in the bottom of the tanks. From there we went out through the inlet and back into Lake Michigan.

Freighter Came In Across River From Our Spot on Wall in St. Joe

Freighter Came In Across River From Our Spot on Wall in St. Joe

It was our best cruising day yet on the big waters of Lake Michigan. Many fishing boats were out, the sun was shining, and the waves only 1 to 2 feet. We entered the inlet at the St. Joseph River, and made our way to a spot along a wall in St. Joe. The price was right (free), and even included power (hydro as they call it in Canada). A park with interesting sculptures bordered the wall. After getting secured, we walked into town.

On the Wall in St. Joe

On the Wall in St. Joe

I can’t say enough about the cute towns all along the eastern side of Lake Michigan. The entrance inlets are so similar with their sandy beaches and lighthouses at the end of the breakwaters, I tend to get them mixed up. The towns are also similar with little specialty shops, decked out in beautiful flowers, inviting green spaces, and friendly people.

South Haven - Busy Spot in Prep for the Nat'l Blueberry Festival

South Haven – Busy Spot in Prep for the Nat’l Blueberry Festival

We stayed along the wall in St. Joe the following day. About noon we watched a freighter come in through the narrow opening of the RR swing bridge, and pulled up across from us at the cement silos across the river in Benton. Warren, a guy from Wolf’s Marine picked us up and brought us to the expansive warehouse where we purchased a pedestal and seat for the lower helm, marine TP, a new American flag, a bailer for the dinghy, and flares to replace our expired ones.

IMG_1735

St. Joe – On the Free Wall Bordering the Park with Free Power

Later we walked back into town where we got fresh bread and cookies from the local bakery. From there we went to a great Chinese place for dinner. Back at the boat we played backgammon, watched passing boats, and prepped for the next day’s cruise.

On Saturday, August 9th the freighter across the river woke us up about 4:00 a.m., as it noisily left port and backed its way through the swing bridge and out to Lake Michigan. We left the wall about 8:30 a.m., leaving  St. Joe and headed through the SE portion of the lake where we left the state of Michigan behind, and entered the waters of the state of Indiana. The lake was a little lumpy, and steering was difficult with the following seas.

Michigan City, IN Beach at Sunset

Michigan City, IN Beach at Sunset

We made it to the Washington Park Municipal Marina in Michigan City, Indiana, where we pulled into the fuel dock to top off our tanks and got a pump-out. The marina is huge – we were assigned slip 7086, and it was a long walk to shore. Pairs of docks share a brick bathhouse and gazebo. The 800 dock was having their annual party, so the common areas were decorated for the event with red solo cups.

Meeting Up With Calvin & Kristin - Yah!

Meeting Up With Calvin & Kristin – Yah!

An in-water boat show was going on next to the marina, so we meandered around and checked out the many beautiful new boats. Back on our boat we looked at the winds and weather for the following day and decided it would be wise to sit tight for another day. So we walked all the way around the marina to the fuel dock where we had to re-register and pay.

Michigan City Inlet

Michigan City Inlet

On the way back we stopped off at the beach where we enjoyed the sunset and the rise of the almost full ‘super-moon’. We stuck our toes in the chilly Lake Michigan water, watched the wind-driven waves crash on the shore, and people-watched. Back in the marina the 800 dock party was in full swing. We were heartily welcomed to join in the fun, so we danced to Jim’s request of “I’m a Goin’ Fishing” by Taj Mahal, and sampled 151 rum-soaked cherries.

The party went on well into the night, the DJ turning the music into Karaoke. Luckily, our slip was a long distance away, down the 700 dock, and the noise did not carry well in the windy night. We slept like babies.

Panoramic View of the Beach at Michigan City, IN

Panoramic View of the Beach at Michigan City, IN

Knowing that we were spending the whole next day, we had a leisurely breakfast. I did dishes and Jim worked on bills and asset management. We took ‘real’ showers in the marina facilities. After Googling grocery stores nearby, we headed out on foot pulling our carts and bags. It was a long walk, but finally we got to the address that Google had provided, only to find out it was the corporate headquarters for Al’s Grocery, not the store itself! That hadn’t worked out so well, but we got our exercise and had enough on hand. We certainly wouldn’t starve!

RR Bridge from Wall in St. Joe, MI

RR Bridge from Wall in St. Joe, MI

About 5:20 that evening we got the call we were waiting for. Our son Calvin and wife Kristin made it to the marina. We walked to meet them in the parking lot – it was so good to see their smiling faces! We had dinner together at a little place next to the marina, then walked to the beach and back to the boat. They were on their way back from motorcycle races in Indy, and I’m so glad that we were able to cross paths and reconnect.

View of Chicago Skyline from Lower Helm

View of Chicago Skyline from Lower Helm – A Rocky Crossing

On Monday the 11th we woke to pouring rain and winds. We checked all our weather and wind apps, and it didn’t look too promising for crossing the southern end of the lake to Chicago. We decided it would be wise to stay, but after looking at the following days’ weather we changed our minds, and quickly set out. A nearby sailboat owner agreed that it was now or wait for 2 more days.

Cruising Into Chicago

Cruising Into Chicago

The winds came out of the west at our starboard side, making for an uncomfortable rocky 4-1/2 hour cruise. When the faint skyline of Chicago came into view through the clouds, our spirits lifted. I just kept steering for the Sear’s tower, knowing that as it grew in size and clarity we were getting closer and closer.

Chicago River

Chicago River

With our reservations made at the North Monroe Harbor, we had mooring ball NB07 assigned, and had scoped out its location on-line. We made our way in behind the breakwater, and got secured to the ball. A short distance away we spotted ‘Cat Call’, the only other loopers we saw while in Chicago.

View from the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

View from the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

What a magnificent city! We climbed aboard the tender boat for a ride to shore, and headed out on foot to Navy Pier, crossing the Chicago River and enjoyed the sights along the way. We ate at Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville”, then took a ride on the Ferris wheel. From there we ended up in Millennium Park at a free rock concert by some Russian band (not my taste in music), then found our way amid intermittent rain showers to a grocery store occupying the two lower floors of a skyscraper.

Mooring Field at Monroe Harbor - Chicago

Mooring Field at Monroe Harbor – Chicago

Lugging our purchases back to the marina, we were pooped out, and welcomed the tender ride back to the boat, where we stowed our purchases and took off our walking shoes. The Chicago skyline lit up around us as night came on, and we caught glimpses of the ‘super moon’ through the clouds.

Chicago Art Display - Millennium Park - Faces Blinked and Changed - Very Freaky

Chicago Art Display – Millennium Park – Faces Blinked and Changed – Very Freaky

We woke in the middle of the night to a hard downpour, but fell back asleep rocking in the waves of the mooring field. After a hearty breakfast, we again called for a tender ride so we could explore more of the city. We walked and walked, first seeing the grounds around the Art Institute, then to the other side of Millennium Park and the famous ‘Bean’ sculpture with its reflective stainless steel surfaces. From there we walked the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue. We ate a late lunch of Chicago deep dish pizza at the original Uno’s, found a Trader Joe’s where we picked up a few items, and stopped in an old landmark steakhouse for a drink at the bar.

View from Chicago Art Institute Grounds

View from Chicago Art Institute Grounds

The suicide of Robin Williams was all over the TV, as he was a native of Chicago. His talent and humor will surely be missed, but I’m glad he left a legacy in the movies he did, both his comedy and serious roles.

We walked a little out of our way, but because of that got to see close-up the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. On sore feet we trudged back to the marina, once more taking the tender boat back to our boat. The night skyline of Chicago is incredible and awe-inspiring.

'The Bean' from a Distance

‘The Bean’ from a Distance

I think the architecture and green of the city is more spectacular than that of New York. I never got tired of seeing its buildings lit up at night reflected in the waters of the mooring field and Lake Michigan.

Inside 'The Bean'

Inside ‘The Bean’

The 13th of August was quite a day! We left the mooring field and locked through the Chicago Lock into the Chicago River. We motored slowly through downtown, navigating between the many water taxis and tour boats. We waited for two trains to pass overhead before a RR bridge could be opened. After the short Chicago River we entered the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal. It was narrow, very industrial, stinky, and crowded with moored barges, and others coming and going.

Buckingham Fountain - Chicago

Buckingham Fountain – Chicago

At one point we had to pull over and tie to an empty barge in a little inlet to wait for the passage of 3 separate tows pushing barges and taking up the entire width of the canal. Once in the clear we encountered 2 tugs sidewise in the channel, their engines running and creating quite a back wash; one almost spinning us around. Immediately after, we hit a large submerged log, with no apparent damage. It made for a tense day of cruising.

Warning Signs Along the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal

Warning Signs Along the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal

After the section with all the barges, we came to signs posted along the waterway, warning us of submerged electrical fish barriers, put in place to stun or kill the flying Asian Carp to keep them out of the waters of the Great Lakes.

The Lockport lock was our next challenge, where we entered and tied to an empty barge container being pushed by the tug ‘Eileen C’. One of their barge hands came and tied us securely alongside, as the empty was too high for us to reach.

Is it possible to really fit through this?

Is it possible to really fit through this?

Soon after the lock the Canal ended and joined the waters of the Des Plaines River.  We cruised to the town of Joliet where we tied to another free wall with power, this time adjoining Bicentennial Park. We chilled out on the back deck, watching the 12-pack barges make their way through the opened bridges, surprisingly able to navigate through the narrow openings. Whew! What a challenging day! Only two locks, but 61 bridges, and many barges to contend with. Glad that stretch is behind us!

Locking Through With Barge - Des Plaines River

Locking Through With Barge – Des Plaines River

We are now at the beginning of the Illinois River, and are appreciating its more familiar and rural setting. We are currently in the town of Seneca, IL at a great little marina with a fun Tiki Bar and restaurant called ‘The Boondocks’. Only 253 miles of our trip remain before we cross our wake in Grafton, IL where the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers converge.

Until next time, ARiverDerci!

 

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Mackinac Island and NE Lake Michigan

Mackinac Island Ferry

Mackinac Island Ferry

We shoved off from Hessel on the 24th of July and did a short cruise to Mackinac Island. We were fortunate to get a slip right on the island, as the famous Chicago to Mackinac sailboat race had just ended, opening up slips in the marina.

Busy Street Scene - Mackinac Island

Busy Street Scene – Mackinac Island

Our slip was a rocky spot with all the ferries continually zipping in and out to and from St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. After getting settled and tied up securely, we took a walk around downtown, stopping for a slice of the town’s famous fudge and a bag of caramel corn.

The Grand Hotel - Mackinac Island

The Grand Hotel – Mackinac Island

Since no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, horses, carriages, bicycles and walkers were everywhere. The sidewalks were packed with tourists. We walked along the waterfront and climbed up to the classic Grand Hotel which has housed guests since 1887. Its size, vista, and sweeping lawns were impressive. We stumbled across the greenhouse and gardens where their flowers were grown to decorate the lobby and grounds.

Beautiful Landscaped Victorian Home on Mackinac

Beautiful Landscaped Victorian Home on Mackinac

We walked back on much less-crowded Market Street, with its many old restored buildings. Lawns, Victorian houses, and streets were decked out in stunning flowers. I felt like I had stepped back in time!

The Mackinac Bridge

The Mackinac Bridge

Back at the boat we met Loopers Eric and Pam from North Carolina and swapped stories with them. We watched boats delivering goods where they were loaded onto trailers being pulled by horses.

Amid the Grand Hotel's Flowers

Amid the Grand Hotel’s Flowers

We spent another day on Mackinac Island. After showering and breakfast, we walked up the hill to the old Fort and toured all the buildings. The panoramic view from the top overlooking downtown and the harbor was spectacular.

The Grand Hotel Carriage transporting guests

The Grand Hotel Carriage transporting guests

Afterward we toured the museum, then rented bikes and pedaled all the way around the island. Much of the trip on the trails went through a State Park, and always you had beautiful views of Lake Huron, the Mackinac Bridge, or high rock formations. It was a crowded ride around the island.

View from Fort Mackinac

View from Fort Mackinac

After returning the bikes, we got hot dogs and ice cream cones. Back at the boat we went over some navigation and on-line wind/weather tools. We ate dinner aboard and talked with other boaters on the docks, and had some great people watching! Every night at 10:00 ‘Taps’ were played to end out the day.

Round Lake Light House - Across from Mackinac Island harbor

Round Lake Light House – Across from Mackinac Island harbor

On Saturday the 26th we got an early start to avoid the ferry traffic and cruised under the famous Mackinac Bridge, and through the Straits of Mackinac, the place where three of the Great Lakes come together. The seas were a little lumpy, and the skies overcast, and we saw one ship heading from Lake Michigan into Lake Huron.

Amid spotty light rain, we made our way through the main channel around the shoals of northern Lake Michigan into Little Traverse Bay to a protected harbor and the city of Harbor Springs. We dropped anchor near shore, in front of a building, where later in the evening a wedding reception and dance was held. We watched

Foggy Morning - Harbor Springs, Michigan

Foggy Morning – Harbor Springs, Michigan

an old Chris Craft come in with an elderly couple aboard. They disembarked to attend the wedding reception while the Captain and crew anchored and waited until they were ready to leave.

The music was loud, as was the laughter and conversation. I secretly wish I had been invited – sounded like fun in this beautiful resort town on the water. Jim’s back was really bad, so we didn’t bother to take the dinghy down and go ashore.

Boyne City Sunset

Boyne City Sunset

Sunday morning we waited for the fog to lift, and set out about 9:20. It was a short cruise that day to Lake Charlevoix, where we went through a channel and under a swing bridge. All the slips were taken at the marina, so we cruised all the way through the lake to the town of Boyne City. Along the way the rain poured down, but quit when we pulled into the marina.

Rain on Lake Charlevoix

Rain on Lake Charlevoix

Boyne City was a great place to wait for a better weather window to proceed south along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The marina gave us a courtesy car and we did some major restocking at the grocery store. I cooked a big dinner while thunder boomed in the distance. We ordered our gold Great Loop burgee and renewed our AGLCA membership. Jim did a bunch of computer work – asset, real estate business and condo rental management.

Lakeshore Property on Oyster Bay - Lake Charlevoix

Lakeshore Property on Oyster Bay – Lake Charlevoix

Monday the 28th was another cold and windy day, so we laid low, then walked to town. It was a cute picturesque place with friendly people and beautiful flowers everywhere we turned. We explored a few shops and made a couple of purchases at the local hardware and marine stores.

Lake Charlevoix

Lake Charlevoix

The next morning we decided to go out for breakfast, so dodging the goose poop, walked to nearby El Sante’, where I enjoyed Whitefish Benedict. They featured many items with local fresh blueberries. Back at the boat we got ready to head out. Folks from the neighboring boat helped us cast off the lines. We backed out of the slip, and suddenly chaos ensued! The gear shifter at the upper helm broke right off while we were in reverse!

Boyne City Marina Office and Lighthouse

Boyne City Marina Office and Lighthouse

I ran below and shifted into forward, but the momentum kept carrying us backward. We barely missed crashing into a boat in a slip on the dock behind us! Jim gave it some throttle from below, but because the windshield cover was on, couldn’t see where he was going. I scrambled up on the bow, and quickly unsnapped it. Once again, this old boat got our adrenaline flowing!

Once we calmed down, we headed to the other end of the lake to Oyster Bay where we anchored out, knowing that it was too windy to venture out onto Lake Michigan. We found the gear shifter lever we needed on Amazon, ordered the part, and got the OK to have it shipped to the Northport marina, our next destination.

We got honked at by this Big 'un

We got honked at by this Big ‘un

Our slip neighbors found us later at the anchorage, and we explained what had happened. It was so sweet of them to come out and check on us! At the end of Oyster Bay there are a couple old sunken boats, and people motored by. We had stir-fry for dinner, played backgammon, and were able to get ‘America’s Got Talent’ on TV.

On Wednesday the 30th, we pulled up anchor, went back through the swing bridge, and out into Lake Michigan. We cruised to Traverse Bay, and while driving, got honked at by a freighter who came up behind us. We quickly got out of its way!

Teens in Sailing School

Teens in Sailing School

Again we anchored out, this time on Northport Bay which is a much smaller bay off Traverse Bay. The skies cleared and we enjoyed our spot, watching young sailors taking lessons near our boat. Two of them even flipped over! Jim took the dinghy down and we went into the nearby marina to get ice and reserve a slip for the next day. Our shift lever was supposed to arrive there via FedEx.

Sky Reflections - Northport Bay

Sky Reflections – Northport Bay

That evening we had dinner aboard, and just before sunset the seas became perfectly flat, and graced us with unbelievable reflections of the clouds.

Thursday the 31st of July was a busy one. We got into the marina around 10:00 am, having to drive from the lower helm. We fueled up and pumped out. The marina facilities are beautiful, and I did 3 loads of laundry in their new complimentary machines. Jim cleaned the boat, as we had been infested by

Northport Marina

Northport Marina

little bugs the previous night. The shift lever got delivered about 1:30, and because the mechanics at the nearby boat works were unavailable, we decided to tackle the installation ourselves. It went much smoother than we had anticipated, a real rarity.

Northport Train Depot

Northport Train Depot

We walked into town, again graced with many pretty flowers and stopped at a little micro brewery where we sampled a glass of their beer and enjoyed smoked whitefish with pita crackers. From there we walked to ‘The Garage’, a food and drink establishment whose main entrance is an overhead garage door. Back toward the boat we picked up a few items at the grocery store.

It had been a very productive day at a first class marina in a cute town! We prepped for the next day’s cruise, made popcorn and watched a movie.

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

On Friday the 1st of August we took off after breakfast and a quick visit to the Farmer’s Market, set up right in the marina parking lot. It was a perfect cruising day with almost flat seas on Traverse Bay, and only 3 to 4 mph winds on Lake Michigan. Occasionally we encountered fog, and saw a ship on its way to Duluth. Because it was so calm we decided on bypassing Leland, with its historic ‘fish town’ district, another great Michigan town recommended for us to visit.

Frankfurt Inlet Lighthouse - Note Swimmers

Frankfort Inlet Lighthouse – Note Swimmers

For a couple of hours we saw no other boats, only a faint outline of the sand dune cliffs on the eastern shore. Me made our way into Frankfort under hazy sunshine. We pulled into the municipal marina and got the end slip in front of the library, with great internet access, a good thing as we received a purchase agreement on the sale of our condo. We went through the paperwork and signed in all the appropriate places.

Windmills atop sand dunes

Windmills atop sand dunes

On Saturday morning I enjoyed another Farmer’s Market. Lake Michigan was a little rougher, with side winds making our travels a little less comfortable. Again the eastern shores were lined with high sand dunes, and the waters clear and blue-green. We came in through the inlet to the town of Manistee, where we again got a slip at the municipal marina. We walked into town where I explored a nice antique store and Jim went to the hardware store. Someone told us that the lake had ‘turned over’, resulting in the lowest recorded water temps for this late in the summer.

Manistee Inlet crowded with beach-goers

Manistee Inlet crowded with beach-goers

We had appetizers and a cocktail at a river-front place on the deck overlooking the water, then went to see the movie ‘Lucy’ at a really cute restored old theater. Again, the town impressed us with its many beautiful flowers and nice old buildings. We walked back to the boat along the boardwalk, enjoyed some wine and conversation, and watched the steady procession of fishing boats returning to port.

The following morning was another foggy one, so we didn’t shove off until 11:00. Again the seas got a little rough. We passed by Ludington, where ‘The Badger’ ferry boat stops after crossing the lake from Manitowoc. We never spotted it, but it brought back good memories of a couple of trips crossing Lake Michigan aboard with my friend Judy.

White Mallard - Is this an Albino Duck? There were 2 in the group.

White Mallard – Is this an Albino Duck? There were 2 in the group.

We slowly made our way to the Pentwater inlet. All the inlets look pretty much the same with their lighthouse and markers at the end of the breakwaters, and crowded sandy beaches alongside. Pentwater was another beautiful little Michigan town. I cooked dinner while Jim talked to a fellow realtor from Wayzata, MN, near where I grew up.

Pentwater Park by marina

Pentwater Park by marina

After dinner we walked to a picnic table, and listened to a fantastic jazz band playing outdoors across the street. We played backgammon, saw a fisherman cleaning his catch at the fish-cleaning station, and watched the sun set.

On August 4th, we planned to leave Pentwater and go to Whitehall, a short cruise south on Lake Michigan to White Lake. Because the seas were so flat, we kept on going. Occasionally big patches of fog made visibility a little challenging. But otherwise it was a perfect day for being out in this big Great Lake.

Grand Haven Inlet - Fog Signal and Lighthouse on Breakwater Entrance

Grand Haven Inlet – Fog Signal and Lighthouse on Breakwater Entrance

We passed by many windmills atop the sand dunes, then by Muskegon, and made it to the inlet at Grand Haven. Here there is a free wall where we tied up, right in the heart of the historic district. Many people were out enjoying the early evening, strolling or biking along the sidewalk on the riverfront.

After sunset we watched an amazing ‘Music Fountain’ across the river from the bow of our boat. Lighted water fountains sprayed up to music, the pulsations and colors changing to the tempo of the many songs played over a loudspeaker. The show has been done every summer night since 1962, evolving and improving over the years, and funded totally by donations. I can’t wait to see the show again tonight!

More sand dunes through the August haze

More sand dunes through the August haze

Today Jim did more maintenance to the boat, and walked a long way to West Marine. I explored a few of the cute upscale shops in town, and have been working on the blog. It was nice to take a little break from cruising, as we have been hitting it hard daily since the end of July.

We have loved the little towns, beautiful harbors, and friendly people along the northeast shore of Lake Michigan. Being tied to the wall here in Grand Haven has its pluses and minuses – the price is right, but there is very little privacy. Town is right here, but we get rocked around by the wakes of passing boats. But all in all, I wouldn’t miss this port for anything!

Until next time, ARiverDerci!

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Lake Huron’s North Channel

Islands on Picnic Island after leaving Little Current

Ruins on Picnic Island after leaving Little Current

The North Channel was another section on our trip with unsurpassed beauty. Although smaller and narrower than Georgian Bay, the scenery was similar with its many islands, rocky cliffs, and clear sparkling water.

We departed Little Current on Friday the 18th of July after going to the Town Docks to re-fuel, pump out, and get ice for the cooler. It was a rather short cruise to our destination of the Benjamin Islands, with sunshine and light winds making it an easy and pleasant trip.

Jim Securing Stern Lines to Rocks on Shore Via Dinghy

Jim Securing Stern Lines to Rocks on Shore Via Dinghy

We found a spot to anchor in one of the coves between North and South Benjamin, dropping the hook, then securing lines from the stern to shore (med style) in order to prevent swinging, as the area was packed with boats.

We explored our beautiful surroundings via dinghy, talking to many other boaters along the way. I hiked up to the summit of South Benjamin, an easy climb on a fairly smooth rock outcrop. The sight from the top was spectacular, with all the boats anchored around the islands. In fact the picture on the cover of the Lake Huron Chart Book is from that same vantage point. Blueberry patches were prolific, but many others had beaten me to the punch, and I was able to find only a few ripe ones to enjoy along the way.

View from Top at Benjamin's - Jim Talking to Local Boaters

View from Top at Benjamin’s – Jim Talking to Local Boaters

After my hike, we continued our tour via dinghy, and stopped to chat with the Burger family on 3 different boats rafted together whom we had met in Little Current. We climbed aboard, and Patty made us cocktails. One of them was a fill-in for Roy on the Cruiser’s Net Radio, a great service with weather, news, and a chance for boater’s to call in and give their location from all over the North Channel.

The Burger Boats in the Benjamin's

The Burger Family Boats in the Benjamin’s

Saturday we spent another very fun day in the Benjamin’s. Terry and Anne aboard “Quality Time” pulled in and dropped anchor nearby, then rowed their dinghy over. The guys took our dinghy over to visit neighboring boaters while the gals hung out in the cockpit, talked, whined and wined. The weather was perfect, and many swam in the chilly water. I opted out, but it was definitely another swimsuit day!

Anne & Terry - 'Quality Time'

Anne & Terry – ‘Quality Time’

We pooled our food resources for dinner – the gals eating salmon cakes and the guys burgers, along with mashed potatoes, green beans, fresh strawberries, and a tossed salad. We grilled and ate aboard our boat. Later we had a fire on the rock off our stern, along with a really nice Canadian family aboard an old Grand Banks who had come to the exact spot 13 years earlier with their then much younger boys in the same kind and size of trawler.

Campfire in the Benjamin's -Neighbor Manning the Fire

Campfire in the Benjamin’s -Young Neighbor Manning the Fire

The neighbors pulled our stern lines from the rocks for us the following morning so that we could have the dinghy up. Jim pulled  the anchor, and I steered us carefully around the many boats dotting the bay. We had decided to go all the way around the Benjamin’s instead of chancing the much shorter way out through a narrow cut between the submerged rocks and those on shore.

Our Boat in the Benjamin's - Anchored 'Med Style'

Our Boat in the Benjamin’s – Anchored ‘Med Style’

We cruised about 20 miles through the McBean and Whalesback Channels and up into Beardrop Harbour. Pulling in we spotted “Northern Spirit”, its mast decorated for our arrival with state and Bahamian flags  purchased as they did their Great Loop trip back in 2012-13. They had them hung in the order they were visited.

We dropped the hook behind a little rock island near them, and took the dinghy over to their Benateau. It  was so great to catch up with Ron and Lynne Taylor and meet their new dog Buddy! The last time we saw them was in December 2012 in Ft Myers Beach. They broke out beers and wine, and we did a lot of catch-up on happenings in our lives.

Ron & Lynne Taylor - now Gold Loopers

Ron & Lynne Taylor – now Gold Loopers

They are currently spending the summer in the North Channel, and being familiar with the area helped us plot our course to Drummond Island, and gave us a Lake Michigan harbor book.

Decorated 'Northern Spirit'

Decorated ‘Northern Spirit’

Later we grilled pork tenderloins aboard ARiverDerci, ate dinner and they checked out our boat, as we were in the Bayliner the last time we saw them. It was so great to see them again – they looked the same as ever. They are undecided what to do next winter, but we’re hoping we can meet up with them somewhere in Florida.

Monday morning the 21st we pulled up anchor, and waving goodbye to Ron and Lynne, set out from Bear Drop Harbour. We had a long cruise that day through the open part of the North Channel west and south to Drummond Island. Again the weather was cooperative with sunshine and light winds. We high-fived while crossing the Canada/US Border. We made it back to the States!

Sunset on Drummond Island

Sunset on Drummond Island

We pulled into the fuel dock at the Drummond Island Yacht Haven around 3:30, and were not allowed to leave the boat until the US Customs officials gave us clearance. They boarded our boat, looked over our passports and boat registration, then inspected the fridge, confiscating our green peppers and tomatoes.

Boat Heading Toward Drummond Island at Sunset

Boat Heading Toward Drummond Island at Sunset

After fueling up, pumping out, and filling our water tanks, we got secured in our slip. We decided to go the grocery store, but it was a very long walk, so we took the marina’s rental car – an old Mercedes. I had to get a few things including green peppers and tomatoes (which were grown in Canada). That made me chuckle!

Unbelievable Sunset at Drummond Island Welcoming us back into the US

Unbelievable Sunset at Drummond Island Welcoming us back into the US

We followed a local, who told us upon arrival to just leave the keys in the ignition. Nobody on the island locks their car, because if anyone was stupid enough to steal it you could easily find it at the ferry dock – the only way to get it off the island!

I watched the sun go down, a big coral orb slowly sinking below the horizon. Many stopped what they were doing to see the unusual appearance of the sun as it disappeared from view.

We tried to catch up on emails and download more navigation chart sections on my iPad, but the internet access was very poor. We were back in the States, but still in very remote waters. Hopefully coverage will improve as we get closer to more populated areas.

Rain Falling Behind us on Lake Huron

Rain Falling Behind us on Lake Huron

On Tuesday the 22nd, we had difficulty deciding whether to continue through the open waters of Lake Huron. The forecast included 15 mph south winds and the threat of thunderstorms. After going over the charts with a local, he suggested we duck into the Les Cheneaux Islands. So we got a late start, casting off around 11:15.

Unique Island Cottage in amid the Les Cheneaux Islands

Unique Island Cottage amid the Les Cheneaux Islands

Once through the DeTour Passage, following a ship and waiting for a ferry, the seas of Lake Huron got rough. Heading west the waves rocked us from the port side, making steering difficult. About 1/2 way across, the skies started looking threatening. Soon flashes of lightning could be seen, claps of thunder heard, and we saw a line of heavy rain coming toward us.

Beautiful Beach Front Spot Along the Way

Beautiful Beach Front Spot Along the Way

We zipped up the covers on the fly bridge, and tried to keep our course in the limited visibility. A ship in one of the main shipping lanes passed us on our port. Soon the rain was behind us, and we spotted the opening between Boot and Government Islands. After what seemed an eternity, we got between them, and finally the wind was no longer a concern.

Sundown at Hessel Marina - Note the US Flag Flying

Sundown at Hessel Marina – Note the US Flag Flying

The skies cleared somewhat, and we zigzagged our way through the bays between the islands, following narrow well-marked channels. Along the way we passed cottages with boat houses, many containing old wooden boats. Passing the town of Cedarville we came upon a golf course that had docks. Many dinghies were tied up – how fun to dinghy in for a round of golf!

We made our way to the Hessel Marina, a beautiful spot on Hessel Bay. We docked, then toured the tiny town. Everyone goes all out with their flowers in pots and window boxes. Their is an old-time grocery store, but more of a general store where we stopped in to share a peanut butter cup ice cream cone. Then we walked to ‘The Islander’ bar for a cocktail, and enjoyed the walls covered in local memorabilia.

Part of Hessel Marina

Part of Hessel Marina

The town of Hessel is considered the wooden boat capital of the world. Each year they have a big convention, and people from all around bring their vintage restored boats. The marina grounds were beautiful and we enjoyed talking with the locals docked here. Jerry aboard a Sea Ray named “Under Contract” helped us with the northern Lake Michigan charts, and highlights to hit along the way.

Cloud Formations above marina in Hessel

Cloud Formations above marina in Hessel

I did 3 loads of laundry, Jim did his routine fuel and engine maintenance, and walked to the nearby Boat Works store and fuel dock to have the pedestal for the upper helm seat lowered by a couple inches. We grilled steaks and enjoyed another beautiful day overlooking Hessel Bay.

Tomorrow the seas are supposed to be flat, and our plan is to head to Mackinac Island, about an 18 mile cruise. We still need to chart our course through our remaining portion of Lake Huron. Then we will go through the Straits of Mackinac and under the famous bridge into the waters of Lake Michigan. The journey continues…

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Georgian Bay – Wow!

Trumpeter Swan Family on the 4th of July

Trumpeter Swan Family on the 4th of July

The 4th of July in Canada was exceedingly anticlimactic. We left the Mariposa Landing Marina in the morning, with Nanc yelling at us from shore that she had butter tarts for us – a local specialty. She met us at Bridgeport Marina next door where we stopped for fuel and delivered them to us. Such service! And they were out of this world! No fireworks, but we had our butter tarts!

Rapids Avoided by Using the Big Chute Marine Railway

Rapids Avoided by Using the Big Chute Marine Railway

Our last day on the Trent Severn (after defrosting the fridge) was very memorable, as we went through the marine railway, better known as the “Big Chute”.  You drive your boat into a “railway car” which has train tracks into the water. The railway takes you up and over a road and a high point with rapids alongside, then down the other side, back into the water, where you drive your boat out (pronounced “ouwt” in Canadian), which I’m catching myself doing all the time. Via osmosis, the local lingo has taken hold, eh! Jim has a video on the Big Chute on U-Tube if anyone is interested in checking it ouwt.

Looper Boat "Akasha" on The Big Chute

Looper Boat “Akasha” on The Big Chute

The Big Chute was exhilarating, and after emerging, we came to some tricky rapids with a narrow channel, then through the Little Chute, where we had to announce our presence on the radio, because you can’t see the other end, and it isn’t wide enough to pass other vessels of  our size.

Mural in Midland

Mural in Midland

In no time at all we were at the last lock #45 on the Trent Severn – the smallest of all of them, and we didn’t realize at first that the doors were open. We went through that one faster than any, and entered Georgian Bay in a narrow channel with many switchbacks.

Lighthouse Mural - very 3D - windows in the side of the building are used as windows in the lighthouse

Lighthouse Mural – very 3D – windows in the side of the building are used as windows in the lighthouse

Georgian Bay is without a doubt the most breathtakingly beautiful fresh water cruising I have ever experienced. The 30,000 islands along its eastern shore offer the most scenic boating possibly anywhere on the planet.

Postage Stamp Mural on the Post Office Building

Postage Stamp Mural on the Post Office Building

We headed to the town of Midland for re-provisioning, showers, and pump-out, and ended up spending three nights there, (3 for the price of 2). I especially enjoyed all the murals around town (39 of them) painted outdoors on buildings by a man name Fred Lenz, now deceased. All of them depict the history of Midland between the 1700’s and early 1900’s. My favorites were the postal stamp mural at the post office, the butchers at the meat market, the Girl Guides of Canada, the Trumpeter swans, and the shop with all the bolts of fabric. Some of the murals are falling into disrepair, but most are being restored to preserve this inspiring art form.

Grain Ship Turning Around in Midland Bay on its way back to Thunder Bay

Grain Ship Turning Around in Midland Bay on its way back to Thunder Bay

We enjoyed our time in Midland, especially the live music we could hear from our boat. One of the dice from our many backgammon games ended up overboard. We got some great navigation guidance from a local named Steve on vacation there, and got much accomplished. We toured the town, got groceries, went to the LCBO, did laundry, and enjoyed a couple of evenings at the Boathouse for dinner and drinks.

Grain Elevator Mural

Grain Elevator Mural

On the evening of July 6th we watched a big ship leave the grain elevators (with the big mural) and head out toward Lake Huron en route to Thunder Bay. It was an impressive sight, and many were on the pier to watch its departure.

July 7th was a day to get things done. Jim changed the oil and transmission fluid, getting rides as needed from live-aboard Larry – thank God for the locals who understand your situation.

Our Boat at the Docks at Cedar Point - Beausoleil Island National Park

Our Boat at the Docks at Cedar Point – Beausoleil Island National Park

The next morning we departed, stopping at the nearby marina for a pump-out (whoa – $22.70). We did a short stint to Beausoleil Island, a Canadian National Park, where we rafted up with Terry and Anne aboard “Quality Time” for most of the day.

We enjoyed their company, watched a slide show of our pics, played a card game, and grilled on their boat between the rain showers.  Just before sunset, we went into the docks at Cedar Spring.

The following day we walked the trails at the National Park, making sure to stay on the path so as to avoid the prolific poison ivy. The winds were strong, so no cruising that day. “Cat Call” arrived, and that evening we enjoyed a campfire with them and a nice family from Barry Sound who made smores and entertained us with their stories.

Jim Sitting on the Rock Throne - Beausoleil Island

Jim Sitting on the Rock Throne – Beausoleil Island

On Thursday the 10th of July we left Beausoleil (can you see the French influence here?) and went out into the open waters of Georgian Bay. Along the way we encountered about 20 big cruisers, making their way to Parry Sound for some rendezvous. We held back and followed behind, through the narrow channels, curving our way around big rock outcroppings and little islands of granite.

Our Anchorage at Echo Island

Our Anchorage at Echo Island

Eventually we made our way into a lagoon anchorage near Echo Island where we dropped the hook, then tied the stern with lines to shore on a close rocky island with the help of nearby boater Bill. Many other boaters were rafted to each other, people were swimming and enjoying a beautiful summer Ontario day!

Float Plane Delivering Fresh Fish to Henry's Restaurant

Float Plane Delivering Fresh Fish to Henry’s Restaurant

After taking the dinghy down, we drove it to Henry’s for fresh flown-in fish dinner. Afterward, we dinghied to a nearby convenience store, the only LCBO anywhere nearby, then back to the boat via some little channels by old quaint cottages and rock islands.

Henry's Fish Restaurant

Henry’s Fish Restaurant

After arriving back at the boat, Bill drove up in his dinghy and invited us aboard “Therapy Too” for some local navigational advice. We donned our life jackets, and carrying the chart book, arrived at their boat where we were warmly welcomed aboard.

Pointe Au Baril Lighthouse - The Narrow Channel used to be marked with a Barrel on a post

Pointe Au Baril Lighthouse – The Narrow Channel used to be marked with a Barrel on a post

We went through all the chart pages of the remaining Georgian Bay, and even into the North Channel. He pointed out many great anchorages and routes to take that we wouldn’t have otherwise considered. A poor deserted baby Mallard swam around the anchorage, peeping as it went in search of its lost mother.

Rocks Everywhere!

Rocks Everywhere!

The following morning on the 11th of July, we got a late start after a hearty breakfast. It was a beautiful clear day with blue skies and low winds, but on the chilly side. Big dragonflies buzzed around, landing on the boat, then abruptly flying onward. We made our way past rocky outcroppings through narrow channels dotted with charming cottages and lighthouses. Hang Dog Channel was especially challenging, then through Pointe of Baril to the Byng Inlet.

Cottage on Byng Inlet

Cottage on Byng Inlet

We rode up Byng Inlet a long way through many no-wake zones to a free government dock. We walked a short way to the nearby marina (and local LCBO), then back to the boat for burgers on the grill and planning our next day’s cruise.

Dock Island Hideway

Dock Island Hideway

At the government dock there was an old green sailboat, and Jim talked to the owner on Saturday morning, and got some great local knowledge of a channel further north through some isolated and protected islands to a great anchorage, as rough weather was heading our way.

Reflections in the Dock Island Cove

Reflections in the Dock Island Cove

After going through many tight switchbacks, we made it to the cove in the middle of Dock Island. At first we didn’t know if our boat would fit into the narrow opening, but we made it inside, and tied lines to a stake in the rocks at the port side, originally used years ago for a fishing fleet. It was the perfect hidey hole from the weather, and the most remote and pristine setting yet. Needless to say, it has been my favorite campsite on this entire journey!

Mama Bear Across the River

Mama Bear Across the River

You could step right off the boat onto the steep rocks alongside, and I just had to go exploring! Right off I got hissed at by a mink who didn’t appreciate that I had trespassed on his terrain. Back at the boat we spotted a mama bear with her two cubs across the river, and saw an otter swimming from a nearby rock out into the river.

Mink Hissing at my Intrusion

Mink Hissing at my Intrusion

The next day we swam (skinny dipped), sunbathed, and I took a more extensive tour of my surroundings. Blueberry bushes were everywhere, so I picked them to my hearts content (ignoring the nearby bear poop). Back at the boat I made a nummy blueberry crisp, and cooked up stir-fry for dinner using our generator to power the electric range. We went to sleep with the rain pounding on our roof – the bow of the boat. All day we saw only one other boat go by – local fishermen, and were thankful to be in our amazing little cove to wait out the winds.

Narrow Channel we went through - looking back - went between the rock and the green buoy

Narrow Channel we went through – looking back – went between the rock and the green buoy

We said our goodbyes to Dock Island in the morning and traversed some of the most narrow and switchback channels of the trip. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, with white-quartz mountains in the distance, clear azure water below, and rock islands and shores with evergreens surrounding us.

Scenery on the way to Kilarney

Scenery on the way to Kilarney

We went through some open water along the way, making our way to Kilarney, a small old settlement where we disposed of our trash and bought ice. Kilarney is officially the beginning of the North Channel of Lake Huron, but other’s claim it to be further at the town of Little Current.

Baie Fine Quartz Mountains

Baie Fine Quartz Mountains

We drove through big Frazer Bay with following seas, not a good thing in our Mainship as it makes steering difficult. Through Frazer Bay, we made our way into Baie Fine (a Norwegian name pronounced Bay Fin), one of only a few fjords in eastern North America. The deep water was crystal clear blue-green with high white quartz bluffs on both sides. A few miles in we went to a popular anchorage spot, dropped the hook, and Jim took the dinghy in to tie a line from the stern to a nearby tree, preventing the typical swinging we get when only anchored from the bow.

View out rear of boat at Baie Fine Anchorage

View out rear of boat at Baie Fine Anchorage

It was another gorgeous spot, although we had plenty of company. Eight other boats were anchored in the cove, around the edges and in the middle. High winds and thunderstorms were in the forecast for the next day.

So we enjoyed a pajama day to ride out the foul weather. I never got dressed the following day – can’t even call my outfit “day-wear”. Jim rested his strained sciatic nerve running down his right leg, and we watched movies, I cross-stitched and managed to heat up leftovers. It was really refreshing to have a down day like that when nothing had to be accomplished.

Entering Baie Fine

Entering Baie Fine

This morning we left our anchorage after a mild May Fly hatch. We drove up Baie Fine almost to ‘the Pool’ at the end, then turned around and made our way to the town of Little Current. We are here for a couple of days to re-provision and gain some local knowledge of the North Channel, and are hoping to reconnect with Canadians Terry and Anne, and Ron and Lynne, loopers we met back in late 2012.

Lighthouse at Entrance to Little Current

Lighthouse at Entrance to Little Current

I can’t come close to expressing the beauty of Georgian Bay and its 30,000 islands. Many consider it to be the 6th Great Lake because of its immense size, and I can see how many spend an entire summer cruising here among the many channels and islands. The remote cottages remind me of the northern cabins in Minnesota. You can hear the call of the loons at night, the water is deep and clear, and the stars are aligned as I’m used to. I have not felt this connected with nature since my teenage years on canoe trips with my Dad in the Boundary Waters.

Little Current Sundown

Little Current Sundown

Our plans are to spend a week or so exploring the islands of the North Channel, then to enter the US via Drummond Island. From there we will head to the big waters of Lake Michigan. It will be good to be back in the USA, but we will be sad to leave behind the many Canadians we call friends, and the unsurpassed scenery, beauty, and remoteness of Ontario.

Until next time, ARIVERDERCI!

 

 

 

 

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The Trent-Severn Waterway

Last glimpse of the US for a while - Oswego, NY

Last glimpse of the US for a while – Oswego, NY

Leaving the dock at 7:20 a.m. on the 22nd of June, we waved goodbye to the US and entered Lake Ontario. It was a perfect day to make the crossing, the seas almost flat, with sunny skies and only a little haze. We decided to take the most direct route across, almost due north for 50 miles, then another 50 miles through the many switchbacks in the scenic Bay of Quinte’.

Ship on Lake Ontario

Ship on Lake Ontario

It was a long day – 11 hours of non-stop cruising. We were happy to see the town of Trenton and the Fraser Park Marina with Craig the harbor master waiting out on the dock to grab our lines. We had made it to Canada without issues, although there was loads of water in one of the Racor filters.

Ferry Station on Bay of Quinte'

Ferry Station on Bay of Quinte’

Jim went aboard to clear customs and we got settled in. We saw Terry and Anne aboard “Quality Time”, Canadians whom we had seen a few times before. We met some new friends Erik and Karen across the dock from us, and we all commiserated for a while. Jim and I took a short walk around town.

Gateway to the Trent Severn Waterway Bridge

Gateway to the Trent Severn Waterway Bridge

Monday morning we walked to the Metro grocery store to get a few things, the drug store where I printed some 8×10 photos of the grand-kids, and the LCBO – that’s what liquor stores are called here in Canada. If you want beer though, you have to go to The Beer Store.

The 1st Lock on the Trent Severn

The 1st Lock on the Trent Severn

An electrician came to check our battery voltage, as we were having a few issues. We talked to many of the locals. At dinner time we walked across the Gateway to the Trent Severn Waterway bridge with Terry and Anne to a restaurant/bowling alley called Wahoo’s. Afterward we got a tour of Erik and Karen’s custom-made Duffy and shared docktails aboard “A-RIVER-DERCI” with Anne, Terry, Erik and Karen.

Locking thru with Erik and Karen

Locking thru with Erik and Karen

The next morning after a hearty breakfast, pump-out, and re-fueling we started our journey on the Trent Severn. We had tried to watch the weather, but temps were given in Celsius and wind speed was given in kilometers, so none of it made a whole lot of sense.

Canada Geese in the Grasses along the Shore

Canada Geese in the Grasses along the Shore

At the first lock I climbed off and paid for our locking and mooring permits. Lock 1 is the only one you can call via VHF radio. But it’s surprising how well they keep track of you with all the boat traffic. They communicate with the next lock, and so on and so on.

In the Lock at Healey Falls

In the Lock at Healey Falls

At most locks there are walls where you can tie up for the night if you’ve purchased your mooring pass. If you are planning on going through a lock, you are supposed to tie up on the blue line which indicates to the lock workers that you intend to go through.

Tied up to Wall above Lift Locks 16 and 17

Tied up to Wall above Lift Locks 16 and 17

We went through Locks 1 through 6 that first day, meeting up with Erik and Karen. All day we locked through with the same 3 other boats, getting into a rhythm and tying to the cables in the locks on the same side when possible. The locks are small, but much nicer than those on the Erie. Many of them have no hydraulics – workers walk around turning this big handle to open the doors, and crank this contraption to manually regulate the water flow.

Drained Canal below Lock 16

Drained Canal below Lock 16

We stayed on the wall above Lock 6 that evening. The sky became overcast and looked a little threatening. We grilled burgers, took a walk to the park along the river, but soon the rain and thunder sent us inside. We planned our next day’s travel and laid low.

On Wed. the 25th we set a new record of going through 11 locks in the same day, including 2 sets of flight locks. Those are 2 locks together, they share the middle set of doors, so as you drive out of one, you are driving into another. The day was cloudy and cool, but the scenery kept getting better as we went along. We stopped along the port wall above Lock 17. The setting was very rural with birdsong and wildflowers.

Lock Emptied of Water

Lock Emptied of Water

We walked back to the flight locks of 16 and 17 and were amazed that all of the water had been drained out of the lower lock and the approach canal. It was an impressive sight. That night we got treated to a great many fireflies lighting up the bushes and brush along the wall.

The weather the next day was a perfect 10. Lock #18 is at Hastings, which reminded us of Lock #2 on the Mississippi at a town of the same name. After leaving the lock you enter Rice Lake which is dotted with islands and beautiful cottages. Fisherman were out in abundance, and the 10 km/hr speed limit signs were posted along some of the narrow sections. Loons could be seen and heard along the way. Now I was beginning to feel like I was ‘up north’ in Minnesota.

Islands in Rice Lake

Islands in Rice Lake

After navigating the lake, the Trent Severn follows the Otonabee River. Shortly inside the river we came across a young Asian couple in a little motorized rowboat waving their arms. Despite the language barrier, we understood their trouble, hooked up one of our stern lines, and gave them a tow back to

Towing Stranded Couple on the Otonabee River

Towing Stranded Couple on the Otonabee River

the resort where they were staying. It was about an 8 mile run up the river, and slow going. They looked so happy to be rescued, smiling and laughing under their sun umbrella.

We continued up the narrow windy river toward Lock 19, but missed the last opening at Scott Mills, so we tied to the starboard wall behind the blue line. We walked into Peterborough to get ice and ended up eating at a good little Italian restaurant. Back at the boat we made a fix to stop the generator from sparking, Jim added a ground wire, and I washed my hair in the galley sink, as showers are hard to come by on the Trent Severn.

Loons (the MN State Bird) along the Waterway

Loons (the MN State Bird) along the Waterway

Friday the 27th we beat our previously broken record and went through 12 locks. “Quality Time” with their mast stepped and braced by 2×4’s, caught up to us, and we spent the day locking through with them, including the big lift lock at Peterborough. The lift locks are like a ride at the fair. You drive into a big pan, and boats on the upside drive into a pan. You tie to a bar, and the whole pan is lifted up in 2 minutes while the other pan is lowered. The 2 pans balance each other.

The impressive Peterborough Lift Lock

The impressive Peterborough Lift Lock

The Peterborough Lift Lock was completed in 1904 and was considered an engineering marvel at the time. It is the still the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world.

As we climbed via the locks the scenery kept getting more breathtaking. Soon we entered the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario, many connected by the Trent Severn locks. My favorite lake among them is Stony Lake, which is peppered with rocky islands, many with cottages and boat houses. One even was adorned with a church. In many places the rocky bottom could be seen in the crystal clear water.

In the Lift Lock pan with Terry & Anne

In the Lift Lock pan with Terry & Anne

We stopped at the Lockside Trading Company for ice and ice cream. We anchored out in Buckhorn Lake near Terry and Anne. After swimming (bathing really) we took the dinghy over to “Quality Time” for Sundowner’s (Bahamian happy hour at sundown). It was a beautiful star-filled night, but the boat was inundated with many little bugs because of the anchor light.

On Saturday we lollygagged, went for a swim, and cleaned up bugs. That was the 28th, my daughter-in-law’s golden birthday. The lakes were crazy with boaters pulling tubers and wake boarders, rented houseboats, pleasure boaters, and fishermen zigzagging between and around the marked channel.We only went through one lock that day, and made it amid all the holiday weekend boat traffic to the village of Bobcaygeon where we surprisingly got the last spot on the wall, thanks to a very observant lock worker. That lock is the busiest of all on the Trent Severn.

Lock Working Manually Opening Doors

Lock Working Manually Opening Doors

There we met other loopers John and Sue aboard “Thanks Dad” from Pensacola. We hung out on the picnic tables and walked through the quaint little village to the grocery store for a few items. We had a late dinner aboard and watched the boat traffic go by – very entertaining!

Island Cottage on Stony Lake

Island Cottage on Stony Lake

Sunday was another hot and humid busy day on the water. We thought to grab a spot along the wall in Fenelon Falls, but it was jammed and crazy, so we went on to Lock #35 at Rosedale. It was a much quieter rural location, and we got the end spot on the port wall with a picnic table. We watched the boats parading by, grilled brats, and enjoyed the shade from the nearby trees. Jim swam and I went for a walk on a dirt cottage road. At sundown lightning lit up the sky and a short downpour ensued.

Cliff Jumpers

Cliff Jumpers

The following day was another hot one, with heavy boat traffic. We locked through at Rosedale and went to a nearby marina for water, ice, and a pump-out. We ended up buying two new batteries and had them installed. Cruising through Balsam Lake the scent of evergreens was thick in the humid air. Next came the Trent Canal, a very narrow and shallow man-made cut where we met and cautiously passed two other cruisers, barely able to squeeze by each other.

The canal opened into man-made Canal Lake, very weedy and shallow, where we went under the Hole in the Wall Bridge. We tried to get to a wall at the Bolsover Lock #37, but the nearby dam was under construction, and no mooring was available.

Another Beautiful Day on the Trent Severn

Another Beautiful Day on the Trent Severn

So we pulled into the Sunset Cove Marina. The owner’s live on sight, and many of the locals were there enjoying the long holiday weekend. We enjoyed happy hour with some of them on the dock, and many kids were swimming right in the marina. It was nice to have internet access for a change.

The Hole in the Wall Bridge

The Hole in the Wall Bridge

Canada Day (like our 4th of July) was anti-climatic. Jim caught up on his asset management, condo rental, and real estate duties via the internet. We got a ride to a local market with great fresh produce. It was another hot and humid day, but much quieter than I had anticipated. Dinner was chicken on the grill with fresh broccoli and strawberries. At sundown we heard the echoing fireworks from some nearby community, but saw none.

Thunderheads at Sunset

Thunderheads at Sunset

Wednesday the 2nd of July we drove through 5 locks, which were very close together. The scenery changed from lakes to farms. Hay rolls and barns could be seen in the distance, and cows meandered in fields along the waterway. Soon we could see Lake Simcoe in the distance, the largest of all the lakes on the Trent Severn. We took one look at the size of the waves crashing, and decided to stay put until the wind calmed down.

Lake Simcoe Entrance Breakwater

Lake Simcoe Entrance Breakwater

We spent the day tied along the wall behind the breakwater, and watched as boaters came by, drenched from the waves after crossing the lake. Some of them yelled at us, “Don’t do it!” So we hung tight. I took a walk, pulled out the cross-stitch, we watched the movie, “The Fastest Indian”, and watched a storm make its way toward us from across the lake.

Sunset near Lake Simcoe

Sunset near Lake Simcoe

Today we crossed Lake Simcoe in only 4 mph winds, so I’m glad we waited. It was a dreary and much colder day, as the storm brought in a cold front overnight with the winds coming out of the north. Rain spitted on and off, and we pulled into the Mariposa Landing Marina. Laundry desperately needed to be done, so I’m blogging in between loads. Jim got a ride into the nearby town of Orillia to a marine store, then walked to downtown and all the way back.

The marina is just off Lake Simcoe in a marshy section called the Narrows. Canada geese have overtaken the yard, and 3 mink popped out from under the dock next to our boat. Red-winged blackbirds can be heard among the reeds, and earlier we saw a Trumpeter Swan couple with their young.The Trent Severn, a national historic site run by Parks Canada, runs 240 miles north and west, connecting Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay.

At the Trent Severn Summit - Kirkland Lift Lock

At the Trent Severn Summit – Kirkland Lift Lock

We have only 4 locks left of the 44, one of which is the marine railway known as the Big Chute. We both appreciate the ever-changing natural beauty and the many friendly Canadians we’ve met along the way.

As usual we are looking forward to our next leg which is Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron with its 30,000 islands. Hope you all enjoy the 4th of July tomorrow! Until next time… A-River-Derci

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Erie & Oswego Canals

“Low bridge everybody down, Low bridge for we’re com-in to a town, And you always know your neighbor, You’ll always know your pal, If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal.”

Blue Sign in Troy - Left Turn for the Erie Canal

Blue Sign in Troy – Left Turn for the Erie Canal

The Erie Canal is rich in history, and the famous song written by Thomas Allen in 1905, and re-done throughout modern times by many musicians (including Bruce Springsteen) was in my head for days as we made our way through the Erie Canal.

Wall at Waterford, NY

Wall at Waterford, NY

On Wednesday, June 11th, in intermittent rain, we went past the towns of Hudson and Albany, the capital of NY, and went through our first lock since Virginia. We said goodbye to the Hudson River at the big blue sign in Troy, turning west into the Erie Canal. A short way up the Canal is the town of Waterford, where we pulled up to the wall and got secured in the rain. Many other Loopers were there, and volunteers at the Visitor Center gave us information on the Erie Canal and what lay ahead.

Remnants of Original Erie Canal - now used for overflow

Remnants of Original Erie Canal – now used for overflow

We had docktails aboard “Errante'”, and reconnected with several other Loopers. I took a walk to see nearby original Erie Canal structures, some of which are now used as spillways.

The next morning after breakfast in town and showers, we untied and headed west, locking through the “flight of five” with “Estrellita” and “Young at Heart”. The “flight of five” is a very close set of 5 locks, which rapidly lifted us in elevation. You’d come out of one, and almost immediately enter another. We locked through Lock 7 together in the drizzle, and made our way to the Schenectady Yacht Club in the town of Rexford. After tying up to the rickety floating docks, we settled in, had dinner aboard, and watched a movie on Netflix. I was hoping for blue skies, as the gray days were getting a little old.

Mansion Atop Bluff - Erie Canal - Mohawk River

Mansion Atop Bluff – Erie Canal – Mohawk River

We woke to more rain, and someone pounding on our boat. Jim got up to help secure boats to the docks and docks to the shore. The water had risen precariously during the night, about 7 feet, and debris, trees, and logs sped past in the swift current of the Mohawk River.

Remnants of Aqueduct - Rexford, NY

Remnants of Aqueduct – Rexford, NY

That day they closed down the Erie Canal, and none of the locks were operational. We watched the river rise, the clearance under the nearby bridge shrink, and the buoys disappear under the surface.

We ended up spending 5 nights at the Schenectady Yacht Club, which turned out to be a nice place to be stranded. The locals were very friendly, and a neighboring live-aboard drove us to town for re-provisioning. We had happy hours with the other Loopers, grilled dinner together one night, and even enjoyed a campfire with the locals and swapped boating stories amid the swirling smoke, as the wind couldn’t decide which direction it wanted to blow.

Docks at Schenectady Yacht Club

Docks at Schenectady Yacht Club

One day we walked to the nearby convenience store for ice cream cones, and got a guided tour of the club house, with explanations of all the historic pictures of the nearby Erie Canal and old aqueduct. Once the rain quit, we scrubbed, polished and dusted the boat, inside and out. I caught up on laundry, and walked through the old village of Rexford.

The muddy water receded as fast as it rose, and soon the current was manageable and the Canal was re-opened for public use. The New York State Canal System manages the Canal, and they were busy clearing logs and debris, and re-positioning misplaced buoys in their bright blue and orange boats.

First Mate - Locking Up - Erie Canal

First Mate – Locking Up – Erie Canal

Finally, on Tuesday the 17th of June our section of the Erie Canal re-opened, and we were able to continue. It was an absolutely perfect cruising day, sunny in the upper 80’s, and the scenery was interesting as we motored along. We locked through #8 through #13, still rising. The Adirondacks rose in the distance, and the Mohawk narrowed as we climbed in elevation. We did a 49-mile cruise that day, and stopped at a free wall along the canal, in the town of Canajoharie.

New York State Canal Dredger

New York State Canal Dredger

Eventually many other Loopers pulled in, and the wall soon filled up. A Canadian sailboat ended up ‘rafting up’ with “Estrellita”. The evening was humid, and we walked into town with Burke, Stel, Glenn and Brenda, and had a great Italian meal at Gino’s. Burke didn’t know how to pronounce the town’s name, calling it “Calamari”. So we had to share some calamari as an appetizer and had a few good laughs about it.

One of the Locks and Dams on the Eastern Erie Canal

One of the Locks and Dams on the Eastern Erie Canal

Back at the boat, lightning could be seen flashing across the sky. Soon the wind kicked up, and the downpour ensued. Overnight we ended up with water coming in over the desk where all of our electronics (computer, iPad, phones, remote, and TV) were housed. Luckily, nothing was damaged once we dried out.

Little Falls, NY - Canal is to the right of the pic

Little Falls, NY – Canal is to the right of the pic

Wednesday we had a short day, only going through Locks 14 thru 17 to Little Falls, a very picturesque town, with water seeming to run everywhere. The weather was cooler after the previous night’s storm. We stayed at the marina, again on a canal wall. We walked into town, Brenda got a hair cut and Stel & I meandered through some of the antique shops. Jim also got a haircut, and the guys went to the local hardware store.

IMG_0788

Water Turned from Muddy to Clear

Thursday we waited for the other boats to leave, as we needed access to the pump-out station. We did 5 locks that day, reaching the summit at Lock 21, where we started descending in the locks. At that point the water suddenly turned from muddy to crystal clear. There were many side dams and spillways along the way, and the NYS Canal workers were out in force on dredgers and tugs. We no longer traveled in the Mohawk River, but rather in a straight and narrow man-made channel, which was what I expected the Erie Canal to be like.

Fellow Loopers Welcome Committee at Sylvan Beach

Fellow Loopers Welcome Committee at Sylvan Beach

It was a beautiful clear but breezy day, and we saw many Canada geese with their fluffy youngsters in tow. We pulled into the town of Sylvan Beach on the shores of Lake Oneida late, but other Loopers had saved us a spot along the free wall, which we managed to squeeze into. We had a whole crew to help us with our lines, and it turned into another spot where many of the Loopers converged.

Bridges across the Erie Canal

Bridges across the Erie Canal

It was a fun evening with docktails on the fly bridge of another Looper boat, an antique car show along the beachfront of Lake Oneida, and dinner at a crowded nearby restaurant. The old cars brought back some memories of our childhoods, our first cars, and how we would pack everybody in without seatbelts.

Docktails on Grand Banks - Sylvan Beach

Docktails on Grand Banks – Sylvan Beach

We got up early on Friday the 20th, and shoved off from the tight spot on the wall with the help of Burke, Brenda & Glenn. It was a cool but sunny morning as we traveled the 23-mile length of Lake Oneida. After the lake, the channel narrowed back down, dotted with summer cabins and homes along the shores on both sides. Going was slow with the locks to go through and the many no-wake zones because of all the private docks.

Crossing Lake Oneida

Crossing Lake Oneida

One of the locks had gasoline floating all over the surface of the water, and you could smell and see it along the slimy walls as we descended. We passed many sheriff boats, and found out later that they had found and pulled out a car with the remains of a woman inside who had strangely disappeared 18 years ago.

Junction of Erie and Oswego Canals

Junction of Erie and Oswego Canals

We locked through #23 on the Erie, and came to the junction of the Oswego Canal where we turned north. On the Oswego we went through 6 of the 7 locks (there is no number 4). Some of them were a little challenging in the wind which had become stronger as the day progressed. Current from the adjacent dams as you entered and departed some of the locks was also a little disconcerting.

Remnants of Old Cable Ferry Crossing - Oswego Canal

Remnants of Old Cable Ferry Crossing – Oswego Canal

We arrived in the town of Oswego about 5:00 p.m. and tied on the east wall between Locks 7 and 8. We hosted “sundowners”, the Bahama name for happy hour, on the back deck of A-RIVER-DERCI with a couple from Georgian Bay Ontario, and Glenn and Brenda on “Young at Heart”.

Locking thru on the Erie Canal

Locking thru on the Erie Canal

The town was getting ready for a big kayak event through all the Oswego Canal locks. Tents and picnic tables were set out, a band stand was put in place along with food vendor wagons – all right next to the wall where our boat was moored.

Kayakers Galore

Kayakers Galore

We awoke to another beautiful day. People were milling about, and the live music started at noon. Soon a horde of kayaks appeared, paddling past our boat toward Lock #8. We met and talked with a local resident who has lived his entire life of 63 years in Oswego. He pedaled off on his bicycle, but soon returned with an 8×10 picture of our boat he had just taken from across the canal. What a great gift!  I’m forever amazed at the kindness of strangers we meet along the way!

Oswego River Dam Current and Canal

Oswego River Dam Current and Canal

Jim walked across the bridge to a nearby grocery store for a few items while I worked on the blog. The whole town seemed to be out, celebrating the first day of summer and the kayak festival.

About 4:00 we said goodbye to Brenda and Glenn, and locked through Oswego #8, our last of the New York locks. Lake Ontario looming ahead, we made our way to the fuel dock at the Oswego Marina, filled up and pumped out. We both showered and I did two loads of laundry. Tomorrow we cross Lake Ontario and continue our adventure in Canadian waters.

Lock and Bridge - Oswego Canal

Lock and Bridge – Oswego Canal

The evening ended with fireworks to celebrate the beginning of summer. They were blown off right across the canal from us, and we sat up top to get the best view possible. It makes me wonder where we’ll be on the 4th of July. If we’re still in Canada, we’ll have to enjoy the fireworks on July 1st, Canada Day, instead of on the 4th.

Sylvan Beach Lighthouse - Lake Oneida

Sylvan Beach Lighthouse – Lake Oneida

We’re prepping the boat and charting our course for the big crossing of Lake Ontario tomorrow. Our intention is to make it to Trenton, where we will go through customs. Jim is putting the Canadian flag atop our US flag, which is a requirement while there.

While we are in Canada we will have very limited ability to text or take phone calls. Email will be our best way of communication. We’re excited to be on our way in the morning, with low winds and sunshine predicted. Happy trails to you all! A-RIVER-DERCI

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