|Locking Through the
Friday, June 9, 2006
Most of eastern Canada a vast northern wilderness in which ancient metamorphic rocks, scoured clean by the last glacial epoch, have recently come to be occupied by countless lakes and notoriously aimless rivers, by northern forests of spruce and fir and some pine, and by internationally reknown mosquitoes and black flies. Human settlement on this Canadian Shield is thin and sparce. If a community exists it almost certainly is small and dedicated to a singlar economic activity such as timber processing, mining, or catering to the wilderness-besotted visitor.
Ontario, the most populous and most powerful of the ten Canadian provinces, has at least ninety percent of its territory in this virginal state. Only in a wedge of land at its southern extreme, sandwiched between the lower half of Lake Huron to the west and the upper St. Lawrence river valley to the east, is sufficiently less inimicable to have permitted extensive (albeit marginal) agriculture and continuous human settlement. This slice of the province is known as the Ontario Peninsula because it surrounded on three sides by water, not just Huron and the St. Lawrence to west and east but also Lakes Erie and Ontario to the south. Although this southern area has a marginally warmer summer and a slightly less harsh winter than the Shield, the main reason the region is more habitable is that it has underlying rocks of a different type--younger sedimentaries such as limestone--that have more rapidly weathered into adequate soil since the last glacier was here. From the point of human occupance, this southern area is Ontario and most everything farther north is a sort of "outback."
As you can imagine, the Shield area is a wonderful place to visit, but a hard place to live. Along its southern extremity, bordering the province's settled area, summer retreats have sprung up in abundance and this in turn has led to the gradual establishment of a small cadre of year-round residents. This is why Kobuk and I came across more and more houses the farther south we progressed along the Georgian Bay coast. Now we are in the heart of this "cottage country" and about to pass through an inland portion of it on the Trent Severn Waterway.
The Trent Severn is a collection of locks and channels that directly connect the St. Lawrence with Lake Huron. It runs through this transition zone between settled Ontario and its outback. It is nearly 250 miles of waterway whose route was of course dictated by existing rivers and lakes--and in this country drainage systems get from to A to B in a very circituous fashion. The Trent Severn is an historical landmark in Canada. Constructed fitfully with little in the way of an overall vision and even less in the way of funding, it took the better part of a century to complete and did not actually make the full connection until early in the twentieth century. The waterway took so long to complete that by the time it was operative its locks were too small to accomodate any commercial shipping. Today, it is a domain used almost exclusively by pleasure boaters. It contains 47 locks, many of which have been preserved or else restored to their original configuration.
It is not far from Beausoleil Island to the entrance of the waterway, and so at the start of the day I already had in my mind the notion that Georgian Bay was a thing of the past. I may have been done with it, but it was not done with me. There was a four-mile stretch of open water that had to be navigated--two miles more or less straight out to sea and then a right angle dogleg to the left to enter a narrow channel lined on both sides with invisible reefs. A strong wind was blowing and the exposure was subjecting us to a quartering sea for those first couple of miles. This set Kobuk to staggering around like a drunken sailor and try as I might I could not keep her on course. The particular shape of the waves and the way in which they were striking the hull overwhelmed the Remote Troll and made it devilishly hard to approximate a straight line course. There were a few anxious moments, but finally the channel buoys came into view and we turned left. We wallowed down the channel until small islands began to protect us and then motored on in comparative safety.
With the wind at our tail and the current coming at us, we finally entered the Trent Severn. The Severn Lock--first from out point of view but last in the eyes of chartmakers and tourist offices--is manually operated. The lock gates were opened and closed by a man and a woman, each one pushing a large, Y-shaped stem around in a circle by putting the back against one of the prongs of the Y and using leg strength to move it. They were happy in their work and each one smiled at me and waved as Kobuk exited the lock.
Now as we moved away from the coast, the bedrock became somewhat less exposed and the relief a little more substantial. The forest was more vigorous here. Trees were more substantial in size and competed with each other to occupy the land. They encroached on bedrock bluffs and boulders that often dropped tens of feet down into the channel. Here and there a little embayment would contain a thin stretch of sandy beach--something virtually never seen farther north. One can see why so manuy would choose to buy land here and put up summer homes. It is a stimulating environment.
Rounding one such bluff on the starboard side, we moved into a broader reach of water wherefrom was visible the peculiar sight of Big Chute, the most unusual lock in the entire system. It is a railroad track that from our downstream side runs up a steep hillside and disappears over the top. A giant cradle with a flat floor and vertical sides operates on the track, drawn up and lowered down the hill by a cable that attaches to its underbody. At both ends, the track runs into the water and when Big Chute first came into view the cradle was partially submerged as a sailboat maneuvered into position for transit to the upper pool. There was no sound as the vessel and cradle rose up out of the water and began the ascent. I tied off Kobuk at the waiting dock and in less time than it ordinarily takes to fill a lock (here on the Trent Severn, that is only about eight minutes) the cradle reappeared and I was hailed to prepare. Although the cradle is constructed of rectangular iron fretwork, the floor of the cradle is covered with wooden planking and broad straps are strategically place that when drawn taut can either totally suspend a boat or, when the hull is shaped like Kobuk's just suspend the stern while the bow rests on the planking. The straps are so arranged that if boats are small, they can be carried three abreast and three or four deep. Our transit, though, was done without company.
Big Chute Dock: 44* 53.136' N / 79* 40.475' W
Distance: 23 miles
Total Distance: 3,132 miles
Saturday, June 10, 2006
All day yesterday the wind had flexed the trees and curdled the water, behaving like a frenzied dog on a leash. It had come out of the north and the northwest, charging constantly but occasionally shifting its point of attack a little. We were running away from it, though, so we never had to confront it head on. It was the best of days to exit from Georgian Bay because I imagine that by afternoon the waves there may have taken on a threatening aspect. Even as we moved inland away from the coast and became sheltered by the forest, the wind continued to blow aggressively. Here on the waterway, though, there were few open stretches of water and so wind and waves could not conspire.
This morning, the wind was still strong out of the north but the skies had cleared and a chill brightness gave a sort of stage-lit brilliance to the scenery. As the day progressed, clouds materialized and came to cover most of the sky. Though often hidden, the sun would sometimes glint and flash through the cloud banks, shooting rays down on a favored patch of land and water. Working our way up through the natural waterways between locks, we would occasionally pass through a narrows where the the downstream flow of the water would challenge us with a strong current that the tailwind often helped to overcome.
In late morning there was one of those unpredictable events that give spice to this sort of venture. A waterside restaurant appeared off to port, its premises located very close to the water with plenty of dock space out front. It was named "Wabic." After a moment's hesitation, I decided to take breakfast there. Five dogs of widely divergent types came curiously down to the dock and sniffed Kobuk over. They had that canine look of expectation, that impractical look of hopefulness that a total stranger had just come in off the water for no purpose other than to offer them a ride. They took their rejection with no hard feelings, and I made my way along the dock to the restaurant. A comfortable informality pervaded the indoors, and I was able to sit looking out at the view through a large picture window. And then off towards one side there were a couple couches and a wall-mounted television that was receiving a World Cup soccer match between England and Paraguay. I had gone in for a meal but ended up staying for a ball game.
After England had won its match, I was treated to the understandable good humor of Frederick William Fleet, an Englishman who migrated to Canada as a young man. He and his wife own the restaurant, as well as all the dogs, and this enterprise is what they have dreamt of doing with their retirement. Their operation is located on an island with no road access. There had been a comparable business here before, but the Fleets bought the operation after it had been abandoned for a few years. Frederick poured himself into cabin restoration and labored to winterize it as well. They intend to stay here year round and that means real isolation in the spring and fall when ice on the waters surrounding the island is too thick to break through with a boat and too thin to cross on foot. In their own way, the Fleets are fellow adventurers. When I reluctantly took my leave, the elderly couple came out with me to see me off. It was as if I had just stopped by for a visit with distant relatives.
Another breakdown. This time it was the Yamaha. For day after day this little engine has been pushing us through the middle of a continent and the sound of its efforts has become as familiar to me as the voice of a friend. Suddenly, though, a shocking collection of clicks and clatters came forward from the back of the boat and I immediately turned off the ignition. The sounds were too harsh and grating for any sort of experimentation so there was nothing to be done but fire up the main engine and carry on to Orillia using it. For a number of days now, I have occasionally heard a singular click or tap, but it was always an isolated sound that did not repeat itself. I had thought it must be the spring and coat hanger I used when I modified the Remote Troll, They are awkwardly wrapped around the side of the Remote Troll's engine plate and I presumed that the device must somehow hang up on the plate and then suddenly break loose. But no, the sounds were obviously precursors to the harsh and continuous grating that undoubtedly came from the engine directly.
The final mileage approaching Orillia is a run down an elongated lake named Couchiching and the farther down the lake we went the nastier the waves became. This is an extensive body of water, but the depth finder indicated that it rarely gets to be more than about fifteen feet deep. Such shallow water forces waves to bump up against each other, like cars on a freeway when everybody must slow for an accident, and so Kobuk was sending spray flying in all directions as she pounded her way through the roughness. Sheets of spray were drenching the windshield and sometimes wind-driven residual was blasted into the open area aft. Kobuk copes in these sorts of conditions but obviously would not choose them.
As we struggled through the last few miles, two great cigarette boats came roaring out of Orillia harbor and chased each other up the lake, loping to windward like grayhounds and filling the air for miles around with the deep roar of their engines. They were stuttering across the tops of the waves with little effort and in mere seconds they became distant specks on the water, impossibly distant considering that the sound of their engines was still filling the air. Kobuk was a pretty sorry performer compared to them.
Orillia Municipal Marina: 44* 36.778' N / 79* 24.771' W
Distance: 36 miles
Total Distance: 3,168 miles
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Have you ever found yourself stranded in a place where you hadn't planned to linger? The first reaction usually is "Oh, no, what am I going to do here?" but usually something comes along that makes the layover memorable. This is the fourth time it has happened to me on this trip and each of the first three times was special in its own way. The first time was last July when repairs to Kobuk laid me up in Pierre, South Dakota for a number of days. That was when I had a chance to watch the Fourth of July rodeo in Fort Pierre, the memory of which is one of the highlights of the trip so far. Then in September of last year I got stalled with engine trouble in Michigan City, Indiana--not the sort of place I ever would have thought to stop in ordinary circumstances. The brothers Steve and Mike adopted me there, introduced me to all their friends, and even hauled me off to a Chicago White Sox game in a chauffeured limosine. That was a memorable occasion as well. The third time was just a couple weeks ago up at Drummond Island on Lake Huron. I was lying in harbor there for five days and although the stay was uneventful the serene beauty of Potagannissing Bay was my first vision each morning and the last thing I would look at before going to bed. All in all, these derailments were worth the trouble. Now it will be Orillia and I am optimistic that something about the place will make it into more of an opportunity than an imposition. One never knows, of course, but the odds seem to favor a good experience--although almost surely it will not be so good for the pocketbook.
Tucked into the southwest corner of Lake Couchiching, Orillia has a main street that you can see from a distance. It runs straight down a gentle hill, perpendicular to the shoreline, and then terminates in a shorefront city park. The park is well-used, partly because the municipal marina is located there and people love to stroll along the pathways where they can look out on the lake and also survey all the visiting boats. Lots of people fish off the docks--in spite of what the signs say--and because the marina only caters to transients there is a constant turnover of boats in the harbor. The place has none of the proprietary exclusiveness of a marina that rents slips to wealthy yacht owners who park their pristine hulls for weeks on end. When I motored in yesterday afternoon, there were a few dozen boat moored--not many considering the size of the place, but more by far than I have seen since leaving Grand Haven. That was yesterday, though; today only a few of us are left in harbor. There was to have been a cigarette boat event here throughout the weekend, but it had to be cancelled, after which there was a general exodus of not only the direct participants but also a large number of nautical groupies that evidently were in harbor for no other reason than to be near the action.
In any event, when these boats are out on the water there certainly is action. Now it is unwise to believe what you might be told by mariners--for they are notoriously casual with the truth--but I have been led to believe that many of them run at better than 120 miles per hour. After watching those two lightning bolts streak by yesterday afternoon I am inclined to believe it. There is one named "Iceman" that can run from here down to Barrie at the south end of Lake Simcoe--a trip that can take a half hour on the divided highway--in under eight minutes. The feeling of speed in a car is one thing. When you travel fast in a boat it is something else again. The irregular surface of the water magnifies the sensation of moving fast and I cannot even conceive what it would feel like to be on a trip to Barrie aboard Iceman.
Monday, June 12, 2006
"Nope," he said with a shake of the head, "there is no way I can even look at your engine until at least the middle of next week." This was Steve Clark speaking, the head man at Blue Beacon Marina. His is the only Yamaha dealership around and the combination of overwork and a naturally blunt temperament gave this crusty, sharp-faced young entrepreneur the rare ability to say "no" without the slightest pang of regret. I knew better than to contend with him. The challenge was to soften him up without taking much of his time. Small talk would not work, that was sure, so I asked him technical questions instead. This seemed to draw him in and he ended up talking with me for much longer than he had planned--nearly ten minutes instead of merely one. I asked him whether I might not pull off the outboard's lower unit myself. If I could identify the problem perhaps he could order in parts for me. He saw no reason why I could not do it and he thought any parts I might need could be gotten overnight. Well, now I was committed. With the manual that Jimmy Quiroz had given me back in Grand Haven I would have to start paying attention to things mechanical.
I was too intimidated to begin the job right away and found a variety of excuses to "accomplish" other things throughout the afternoon. In early evening, though, I faced up to reality and began to detach the Yamaha from the Remote Troll. As so often happens, someone came along to provide a little assistance. His name was Greg Heffering. He owns the largest boat brokerage in the area and was down at the municipal marina preparing for a boat show that will take place here this coming weekend. Greg is a short man, broad-faced and broad-shouldered. With prematurely gray hair and a Nixonian five o'clock shadow (only in gray), he emanated a sort of restless dynamism that was not uncommon in men of an earlier era but is less often seen today. With an iron grip and a can-do attitude, Greg helped me lift the Yamaha from the remote troll and carry it down the dock and over to a park bench where it could be hung in an upright position. Greg's physical assistance was considerable, but even more than that he gave me a shot of confidence that this is really just another job.
The park bench where we had set the Yamaha had an excellent view of the harbor and right next to it was an open-sided gazebo with a picnic table under it. This became the shop. I learned how to drop the lower unit while the Yamaha was mounted on the park bench. After it was disconnected, I began to extract its innards on the picnic table under the gazebo. People out for an evening stroll would make subtle but unmistakable course adjustments so as to pass nearby and occasionally older men would strike up a conversation with me about what I was doing. I don't suppose the park personnel would look kindly on my use of their facilities, but they had gone home for the day. The little project was a fair success with most all the evening strollers.
The work environment was very nice, but the results of the labor were a little less satisfying. When I drained the gear oil, nothing came out but water and some silver filings. This was not a good sign. When at last I had the gears of the lower unit exposed it was obvious that they were rusting and that the pinion gear at the end of the drive shaft was chipped and deformed. Furthermore, it took more effort than seemed right to spin the drive shaft in its housing. I decided that in the morning I would take the lower unit with all its exposed parts to Steve and see what could be salvaged and what would have to be replaced. After hauling everything back to Kobuk where it would be secure for the night, I set the project aside and turned my mind to other things.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
The choice was between replacing gears, seals, and bearings or buying a whole new lower unit. The cost difference was modest because repair work would have to be done by Steve's mechanic (who has the special tools required). It would be a week to ten days before the repair could be done, so I reluctantly chose the replacement route. Then, of course, it turned out that lower units for this model Yamaha were back-ordered and would not be shipped for a couple weeks. This is when Steve's true colors began to show for he told me that he has that engine on his show room floor and would remove its lower unit to sell to me. For all his cussedness, he proved to more helpful than most in his position. He arranged to have the lower unit removed tomorrow morning and thought that I might be able to pick it up from him in the early afternoon.
I returned to Kobuk in a sober mood. Drummond Island and Orillia have done me in as far as money is concerned. If any more major things go wrong I may have to terminate the trip for this season and find a way to get it going again next spring. It doesn't pay to spend time fretting over something like this; I have decided that I will keep going until I have to stop so there is nothing to be gained by brooding over the possibility. Even so, I found it hard to keep my mind off the matter. I tried to stay busy but there was not much left for me to do: I had done most everything on my task list and, except for the Yamaha, Kobuk was ready to go. Reading is always a good escape, and I used it.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Blue Beacon Marina is located at the Atherton Narrows where Lake Couchining and Lake Simcoe join. It is about three miles east of Orillia, and from the municipal harbor it can be gotten to using a fitness trail that meanders along the waterfront. A scenic, leisurely passage that hardly ever intersects busy streets, it passes by the Stephen Leacock summer home and offers frequent views of Lake Couchining under an arbor of intertwining tree branches. It is paved but not geometric, and the process of following its winding course makes the journey to the Marina seem more like an outing than a duty run. I returned with the lower unit strapped to Bike Friday's day rack and then immediately began working on reassembly of the engine.
To my surprise, everything went back together without any complications and even the job of remounting the Yamaha on the Remote Troll went smoothly. To my delight, the engine ran immediately and responded better than ever before to the shift and throttle controls. The nasty sounds were gone and the Yamaha sounded is it had when it was new. This did cheer me up--and then something else happened to give me an even greater lift. A fit and trim Chinese man of middle age came down the dock to where I was reorganizing everything at the end of the Yamaha project and asked me if I would be willing to take him and three others out for a little cruise on the lake.
He and his wife had driven up from Toronto with friends who were visiting from China and they had planned to go out on Orillia's large passenger ferry for its regular evening cruise. They had arrived late and now this man, whose name was Pei, was looking for a way to salvage something from the trip. I made an arrangement to take the four of them out on the lake for a while, but explained that I would not be ready to go for another 10-15 minutes. During that time, I had a call from a good friend and when I explained why I couldn't talk for long she reminded me about the life jacket law. Since I only have three on board, I had to explain the problem to Pei, and for the next little while we both spent our time wandering around the harbor asking people it they might have a couple life jackets we could borrow for an hour or two. Nobody did, so eventually we had to divide the group and make two separate cruises. Pei was not able to talk his wife into this arrangement, but eventually I did. At the end of it all, Pei paid me for my services and although it did little to rectify my problem of negative cash flow it did somehow give me a lift. I can now claim to have (illegally) chartered my boat to someone--which makes me feel like a professional, even though I know it is not true.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
I have never liked Lake Simcoe--even though I have never seen it before. It is a large lake and has every right to be respected, but on a map its oblate and ungainly shape give it the look of an uninteresting place. In reality and on maps it is of course blue, but its roundness and its smooth-running littoral remind me of a mud puddle. Who wants to go boating on a mud puddle? There is one other thing that Simcoe and a mud puddle have in common: they both are relatively shallow. There is nothing untoward about a mud puddle that is shallow, but a shallow lake takes on an ugly looking chop when the wind kicks up. This morning the wind has been light and favorably directed so Kobuk and I are taking advantage of that.
We are presently slicing across the lake, separating its northeastern third from the remainder and here out in the middle of our transit with the coast a few miles off the port beam the water is rarely more than thirty feet deep. But it is a glorious day with warm sun, light winds, and placid water--and the lake is looking better all the time. The distant shore for which we are headed appears to be uninterrupted forest with fewer waterfront cabins than usual, and off to the south and west the land is far enough away to be a discontinuous slate colored smudge on the horizon. Nobody is out here.
As with many lakes, placid waters are a commonplace in the early morning and late in the day, but rather rare during the midday hours. The morning progresses and gradually the stillness on the surface of the lake turns to ruffles, and then to lilliputian wavelets. The conditions are benign but the trend is ominous and I begin to calculate whether it would be wise to fire up the main engine and run the final half dozen miles quickly. We continue on at our slow pace, however, and when we reach the waterway channel on the lake's eastern shore, we do not glide into it but instead rollick and weave.
Here where the Trent Severn runs down into Lake Simcoe, the passage is a bowered avenue, narrow and straight in many sections. Trees overhang the waterway, rising up from land so low that they look as if their obscured trunks are floating on the water. They are deceptive for their greenery lets you feel as if you are doing nothing more than going ". . . up a lazy river in the noonday sun . . ." when in fact a little inattention can lead to problems. At one point I left the helm for a few seconds to make an adjustment at the stern of the boat. In mere seconds Kobuk had drifted over to one side of the channel and was in jeopardy of running into the foliage. I dashed forward and steered back on course, but not quickly enough to avoid the sweep of branches along the starboard side, with the cabin and the radio antenna and the aluminum framework for the bimini collecting a bushel of leaves and small twigs. Just a little deeper in and the trees might have been collecting things from us rather than the other way around.
At the end of the day I tied off Kobuk at the base of Kirkfield lift lock. This is the sort of structure that puts a sparkle in an engineer's eyes. It consists of two rectangular trays, each full of water and each centered on a large piston. Each piston sits on a column of water inside a water-tight chamber and, deep down below, the two vertical chambers are connected by a horizontal pipe that has a valve that can be opened or closed by the lock master. It is, in effect, a hydraulic system. Whenever the valve is shut, the two trays stay in a fixed position. Whenever the valve is opened, the heavier tray--that is, the one with more water in it--will move down and force the other tray up. The ends of the trays have gates that can be dropped whenever the level of water in the tray is more or less the same as the level of the water in the canal. I say more or less because the system actually works by opening the gates when the level of the canal water is slightly higher than the water level in the upper tray. This results in the upper tray getting more water in it than the lower one. Then when the gates are closed and the subterranean valve for the hydraulic system is opened, the upper tray weighs more than the lower one and so it slides downward and forces its counterpart up. These trays are of course very large, capable, I would estimate, of accomodating a yacht more than a hundred feet in length.
It has always seemed a pity to me that we pay so little attention to engineering. It would not be necessary for us to become knowledgeable about such esoterica as the math or the precise characteristics of materials in order to understand the essential nature of what engineers do. They build things that have a function and usually they must create something designed to cope with very specific environmental conditions. In these days when so little of what most people do has tangible results, the work of engineers is a double delight--not just a highly creative form of industriousness but also a kind of endeavor that yields up something that can be put to use. If the general public had a better understanding of the basic issues in engineering then I suspect huge numbers of people would spend their spare time designing and building all sorts of contraptions that may or may not prove functional but that in any event will give the creator a feeling of actually having done something. It would allow us to derive satisfaction from trying to shape the world around us--something I think we all crave a little.
Kirkfield Lift Lock: 44* 35.389' N / 78* 59.476' W
Distance: 32 miles
Total Distance: 3,200 miles
Friday, June 16, 2006
When we motored out of Kirkfield Lift Lock we had reached the hight point of the Trent Severn Waterway. From here on the channel will be marked as if we are heading downstream with the red buoys on the left instead of the right. At this high level, we are on Balsam Lake, the first of many that will need to be navigated on our long, stepwise descent to Lake Ontario. When we left Georgian Bay we were at an elevation of ___ feet. The locks have raised us to ___ feet, which is higher than Kobuk and I have floated since leaving the Dakotas a couple thousand miles back. Over the next 150 miles, we will drop down through 35 locks and by the time we get to Trenton at the eastern end of the waterway we will only be ___ feet above sea level. That will be low enough to stimulate thoughts about finally reaching the eastern seaboard.
We are at the western edge of a district known as the Kawartha Lakes, a collection of elongated fingers of water that generally orient northeast-to-southwest and that connect to each other across narrow necks of land where a stream typically drops down across a falls or set of rapids around which a lock has been constructed. Typically, small barrages were built in the process of lock construction, thereby raising the level of the upstream lake a few feet. Even so, these are natural lakes that have only been fiddled with and not reservoirs imposed on a moving river. Reservoirs often have a ponded look to them, as if a clog in the system had backed things up (as indeed is the case) and forced water to settle where it ordinarily would not. Scarred and unvegetated bluffs dropping into the water is one symptom of this, as are broad expanses of grass-choked embayments. These Kawartha lakes generally lack the eroded bluffs but do occasionally include backwater areas lying still and tufted with grass.
The channels between lakes often are thick with subsurface weeds and these can be a navigational nuisance. The jet drive sucks them into the protective grating where their matted thickness clogs the water intake. That problem can be avoided by relying on the Yamaha outboard--for as long as the jet is not running it will not draw in water--but the outboard is incapacitated by the weeds as well. They wrap around the lower unit, noticeably diminishing the efficiency of the engine, and occasionally they twist in a clotted wad around the forward edge of the propeller, almost stopping forward progress altogether. It is a simple matter to stop the engine and clean away the weeds but often this cannot be done for fear that during the process Kobuk will drift closer to shore where the weeds are thicker and where it will then be difficult to get under way again using either engine.
It was a short day on the water for I had arranged to meet up with an old friend in Fenelon Falls, which was not far away. Mike Grey was my best friend as an undergraduate in Montreal, but after we finished our schooling and went our separate ways neither of us made much effort to stay in touch. Those college years were four decades ago and since then we have only seen each other a couple times. Mike lives in Toronto with his irrepressibly vivacious wife Svea and their daughter Georgina. He is driving up alone after work today to spend a few hours with me, and this is an event that I do very much look forward to.
Although conventional wisdom would have it that most people do not change much during life, my personal experience contradicts this. We generally do retain a certain temperament throughout life, but it has surprised me how much we also modify our character with the passage of years. Some of us become bitter and disillusioned; some overcome stifling shyness and taciturnity; some grow out of deeply engrained resentments. Most people I have known a long time are in one way or another remarkably different from what they had been years ago. When I met Mike today, however, he seemed very much the same person I had blithely walked away from--and into a new life--back in 1966. Some things can never be retrieved and rarely do I waste much energy on useless regrets, but to meet an old friend who is still so easy for me to talk to--well it makes me wonder what I was thinking when I did nothing to maintain something so rare. Of course I was very young then and didn't really know what I was doing.
In those youthful days Mike and I would argue constantly, often about politics but really any subject would do. We were hard on each other but I don't think either of us ever minded because we knew that the friendship was real and because we could sense that there was nothing malicious in the other's intent. It's still the same; it's still the same after all these years. Constantly, we were striving for verbal one-upsmanship. Many men might do so with sports or with chasing women or in some other domain, but for Mike and me it was nearly always a verbal contest. One of the favored foci for our contentiousness had to do with nationalism. Mike is Scottish in background but grew up in Chile before moving to Canada to attend university. In those early days he challenged everything American and I was, I must confess, rather excessively nationalistic at the time. Ironically, I have over the years drifted away from my infatuation with the United States while Mike has developed a surprising regard for many things American. I wish I could say that his change was the consequence of my stellar and forceful arguments--but they were really of no significance whatsoever. Mike has been influenced by Svea who happens to be American. Whatever we might be, life has a way of challenging it with a circumstance or condition seemingly tailored to do the job.
Fenelon Falls: 44* 32.178' N / 78* 44.316' W
Distance: 16 miles
Total Distance: 3,216 miles
Saturday, June 17, 2006
The main street of Fenelon Falls runs across a bridge at the downstream end of a waterway lock, and, after crossing a small island that serves as the town park, then bridges the falls themselves. The tie-off pier for the lock is a busy place: boaters love being in this picturesque setting with a lovely park and waterfall to one side and the busy center of the small town directly visible to the other. After going out for a short ride with Mike, I had tied off for the night there, slipping in among the many boats to take a place on the blue line, that portion of the concrete pier reseved for those awaiting passage through the lock. The blue line is off bounds for any boat that is not locking through, but it was after hours by the time Mike and I got there and I would be leaving first thing in the morning when the lock gates open.
In the middle of the night I was awakened by a sharp clunk, a single sound that came to me from the starboard side of the cabin. I wondered at it but since it was followed by silence I dismissed it as unimportant and drifted back to sleep. In the morning I discovered that someone had stolen the five-gallon jerry can of gas off that side of the cabin. Ever more alert am I to every wayward sound that comes to me on board Kobuk, but not alert enough, it seems, to catch everything possible. I visualize myself now having peered out to check on the sound and then chasing after the culprit, me buck naked and him staggering along with forty pounds wobbling around at the end of his right arm. This is not a major loss but it is irritating because the restraint system for the jerry cans is designed for their particular shape and size, and I do not know how hard it will be to find a replacement.
The farther east we travel in these Kawartha Lakes, the more the edging forest is composed of tall pines with their curved crowns and explosive branches. This alone is enough to remind me of the lakes region in New Hampshire where I grew up. But even though the boats are out in force on this sultry June weekend, few of them are racing around with water skiers in tow as would have been the case on Newfound Lake when I was a youth. This staple of my teenage years seems to be fading in popularity, only to be replaced by jet skis which fly across the water at tremendous speed and accomodate a little sexual intimacy as couples find excitement in bathing suits. Kobuk shuffles along at her stately pace and in this respect more closely resembles the cabin cruisers that are much larger than her than she does the little runabouts that are more her size.
I spent the evening in Buckhorn at a local restaurant looking out at the darkening waters of the lake. There was an outside patio, but I was ready to escape from the heat of the day and decided to stay inside where the large windows framed the view and the cool draughts from an air conditioner relieved me of my overheated condition. While I was there, a middle-aged man with a mottled complexion and doughy face enjoined me in conversation from an adjacent table, telling me about his natural cure for diabetes and his church project to build an orphanage in the southern Sudan. He was not a bore but I was, for the heat of the day had drained me of all animation. I found myself providing single-word responses to his lengthy expositions, a level of impoliteness that seemed to bother me much more than him. In the end, when he finally left, his last words to me were that he had bought my beer. All the while, the waitress, a cheerful young woman named Laura, lavished appropriate attention on me and showed concern neither with my behavior towards my benefactor nor with my inability to decide what I wanted to eat. When she inquired about what I was doing and I explained, she told me that my trip was the sort of thing she would like to do but that whenever she brings it up with her fiancee he tells her she is crazy.
Buckhorn Lock: 44* 33.389' N / 78* 20.768' W
Distance: 32 miles
Total Distance: 3,248 miles
Sunday, June 18, 2006
From Orillia to here has been a passage through generally flat-lying country with limestone and shales and other sedimentaries forming the occasionally visible bedrock, but today is taking us back into Shield country with its crystalline domes and rounded outcrops and generally less regular terrain. Here in Lower Buckhorn Lake, rocky islets are once again a commonplace and bays and inlets abound. This is the third day in a row of humid heat and hazy sun, and the sultry air has stolen the sharp chill from the lake waters. At one point I found two rocky islets no more than thirty feet apart. They both sustained small trees and shrubs, and so I used the narrow passage between them to suspend Kobuk in shallow water with her bow tied to one island and her stern secured on the other. There in the rocky shallows I was able to clean out the weed-clogged intake for the jet drive before bathing in the tepid waters. Boats passing in the nearby channel were witness to this classic scene of summer indolence.
Buckhorn Lake, Clear Lake, Katchewanooka Lake. Eventually, these last beads on the Kawartha string were behind us and we had headed down the Otonabee River towards Peterborough. These final few miles of channelized river course contain a flurry of locks that became harder and harder to negotiate as a fretful and swirling wind out of the south made it hard to control Kobuk whenever she entered into one of those confining slots. With forward speed necessarily at a minimum, each new unpredictable gust in one of those water-filled corrals would send Kobuk drifting and twisting in unpredictable ways. Until actually snugged up against a wall with lines properly wrapped around one of the plastic-covered cables that drops down into the lock, there was no telling when Kobuk might be suddenly set against the concrete wall prematurely, or spun out of reach into the middle of the lock and in jeopardy of hitting other boats. In one particular lock, we collided prematurely with the lock wall when we entered, as if we had never done this sort of thing before. Then, when leaving that same lock, I had no sooner pushed away from the wall and started the engine than a different gust of wind slid us sideways all the way across the lock until we bumped noisily against the other side. When finally we managed to escape, the lock attendants must have issued sighs of relief.
If there were no wind, it would actually be easier to manage Kobuk now that we are headed downstream. Until we exited Kirkfield lift lock, Kobuk and I had never been in a lock that was lowering us down rather than raising us up, and so it was a pleasant surprise to realize that descent would involve so very little turbulence. This is a minor issue here in these small locks of the Trent Severn but not too long from now Kobuk and I will be working our way down the St. Lawrence where the cavernous locks will be big enough to accommodate the large Great Lakes tankers. This intimidating prospect is ameliorated to some degree by the fact that at least we won't have to cope with a vast cold couldron of boiling waters.
Approaching Peterborough, we passed by Trent University and dropped down through the Peterborough Lift Lock--even bigger than the Kirkfield one--before tieing off at Ashburnham, the lock nearest to downtown. After going off on the bicycle to take a look at the place, I returned to Kobuk in the evening when the lock was closed for the night. The lock attendant had left a note for me with a bathroom key attached, and a packet of materials about the city as well. This was a level of attention I had not expected. It made me feel wanted.
Ashburnham Lock, Peterborough: 44* 17.934' N / 78* 18.273' W
Distance: 31 miles
Total Distance: 3,279 miles
Monday, June 19, 2006
Today had to be for work: there were errands to do and school stuff to catch up on. It couldn't have worked out better, actually; cloudy skies and intermittent rain persisted all day long and so I did not mind staying indoors with a computer screen in the immediate foreground and glistening, rain-drenched streets visible through the streaked window. Only when the gray skies dimmed to twilight did I finally put aside all those practical matters and look for something entertaining to see or do. It did not take long to find the right thing. Tonight was game seven of the Stanley Cup finals so it was logical to find a popular bar with a large screen TV and watch the action.
The finals were being contested by the Carolina Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers. The series was even at three games each, and Canadians were generally euphoric over the remarkable surge of the Oilers who had lost the first two games but had then come back to even the series. There are not many things that provoke a sense of nationalism in Canadians, but hockey definitely is one of them. I have yet to meet a Canadian who does not want the Oilers to win. Considering that this is a team from Alberta, some 1,500 miles from here, its appeal has to be its Canadian roots. In fact, I have heard a number of comments from people who feel it is about time for "a Canadian team to win." I think Canadians feel demeaned and insulted that teams with unhockeylike names--the Devils and the Mighty Ducks, and now the Hurricanes, for example--should presume to excel in such defrosted regions as New Jersey, southern California, and North Carolina. I suppose it is as if Americans were to see NBA expansion teams from Mexico winning the championship year after year. The natural order of things would seem upset.
Edmonton did not win. They played as if possessed, but so did the Carolina team, and in the end talent, luck, and destiny kept the Stanley Cup south of the border for one more year. The game itself was very exciting to watch since both teams were racing up and down the ice like swarming bees and never let the pace lag even for a moment. I ordinarily do not enjoy watching hockey on television because I cannot really follow the puck, but in this instance the epic nature of the struggle was evident throughout. Both teams drove themselves mercilessly and the distinctive sounds of slap shots, players hitting the boards. and skates scraping to a stop all came through clearly on the television even if the puck was often obscured. The crowd, the Carolina crowd, was all-American in its outspoken exuberance and from beginning to end the enclosed space reverberated with fan delerium.
It is for me intriguing to watch the Canadian reaction to failure. In the States, losing a contest might precipitate any number of reactions--sullenness, for example, or outrage or disbelief--indicative of the widely held belief that victory is a birthright. Anything but success carries with it an intimation of injustice, a miscarriage of justice. Canadians, however, are more realistic. They do not expect success; they hope for it. It may be harder to get what you strive for with an attitude like this, but it is at least a more reasonable reaction to the unpredictability of day to day life. That the Oilers did not win was a disappointment to the crowd in the bar, but the setback did little to dampen the requests for "another beer, eh?"
It must not be easy living in the shadow of a giant. Canadians have learned to cope with their powerlessness relative to the United States and they tolerate their lesser status because there is simply no choice. Anything that requires Canada to consider the interests of the United States--and that ends up being just about everything--almost always elicits a fatalistic view that American interests will most likely prevail. This is so generally accepted that resentment hardly even enters into the equation. It would be like resenting the fact that shit smells.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
We know that love and loyalty often are extended indiscriminately. People are prepared to lavish these most admirably human propensities on any of a wide number of inanimate objects. We may marvel at the elderly widow who treats her bad-smelling, ill-tempered terrier as royalty, but what are we to think of the balding bureaucrat who cannot drink any but the finest of wines? How are we to explain the teenage boy who spends his entire net worth on the purchase and improvement of a pickup truck? Is there any way to comprehend the society lady who cannot sleep for fear that her jewellery might be stolen? Hardly a single person is not susceptible to this devotion to things inanimate, and this I offer as an excuse for my own irrational fixation on wooden watercraft. Boats are to me more precious than money. I cannot explain why. It makes no sense; it just happens to be my attitude.
A well-designed boat, finely made of wood, will turn my head every time. There are occasions when a hull constructed from some other material such as fibreglass or aluminum seduces me, but this always is in spite of the construction material rather that as a partial consequence of it. Wood, it seems to me, is sufficiently malleable that an artist can create sensuous shapes with it while at the same time is sufficiently constraining that undisciplined creativity is not a reasonable option. As a general rule, fibreglass offers the boat designer too much latitude. Such unfettered freedom of design leads to preposterous shapes that only pretend to be be functional or that execute functionality without regard for the universal truism that all marine design requires compromise. I will not pursue this line of argument since none but the obsessed can be properly appreciative of obsession. I will point out, however, that this is why on a gloriously sunny morning I was motivated to spend my time indoors--in a building without windows--reviewing the exhibits of the Canadian Canoe Museum.
In Canada, Peterborough is closely associated with the design and construction of wooden boats--small pleasure craft of whatever sort caught the public fancy in the late 1800's and most of the 1900's. The city no longer produces wooden boats, of course--nobody does (in rich countries)--but it clings to its heritage by sponsoring an annual gathering for vintage wooden boats and by maintaining this Canadian Canoe Museum. Since the wooden boat regatta is not now on, I chose today to view the museum.
We tend to think of canoes as specialized craft that vary little in size and shape. On one level, this is quite true. Virtually all of them are shallow-draft double-enders with little tolerance for wind and waves. Most are intended for use on flowing rivers. Insofar as they fill a specialized nautical niche, they are indeed all somewhat alike. But this is a little like saying all coins are alike. Don't tell it to the numismatist.
Have you ever seen a 60' dugout canoe? If not, come take a look at the one hanging overhead in this Peterborough museum. Believe it or not, it is sleek and rocket-like. You have no idea how much more racy a dougout can look if is finely shaped and given a few coats of paint. What about traditional Inuit kayaks--have you ever had the opportunity to view a fleet of them? With dozens on display here you begin to get a feel for how individualistic each one is. In this era of manufactured uniformity, we tend to forget that handcrafted items always reflect the individual craftsmen even when conforming to certain standards of size, layout, and methods of construction. Not only that, craftsmen from Baffin Island, say, will work from a slightly different mental blueprint than do the builders in Inuvik, and the result is regional differentiation in just what a kayak is supposed to be--a geographical differentiation that is founded as much on culturally derived differences in aesthetics as it is on functional adaptation to the demands of different environments.
Most fascinating for me were the bark canoes of the northeastern woodland Indians. The image that most of us have regarding this type of craft is one that rarely goes beyond the fragile, white appearance of bark on a birch tree. This is misleading for the traditional craft was neither as fragile nor as light as our misguided stereotype would have it be. The color of the bark on the exterior of the boat would generally be a woody tan and its thickness would be considerable (comparable, in fact, to the skin of a contemporary cedar strip canoe). The implicit notion that Indians paddled around using their knowledge and expertise to compensate for the canoe's lack of toughness is downright wrong; the canoes were tough like their masters.
Take for example the Montreal canoe--an adaptation of the Native canoe that the French used to maintain their early fur trading empire throughout the interior of the continent. Imagine something that is double ended and undecked, a canoe about 35' long and skinned in bark. When it is on dry land and you stand beside it its gunwhale is up at your hip. Put it in the water and load it with eight tons (!) of trading goods. Now the crew gets in--more than a half dozen Quebecois and two steersman (one at each end). The craft has become so laden that it sits deep in the water and there is only about six inches of freeboard. That sort of clearance works ok when you are paddling along all the rivers great and small, but imagine how worrysome it must have been to strike out across the unavoidable Great Lakes with their unpredictable weather and bruitish chop. They must have waited for their chance and then paddled like demons to get across a broader stretche of open water during the time when the wind was down.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Peterborough has an air of respectability. Neither rich nor poor, it seems not to have ghettos of either extreme. There is a bourgeois blandness to the place that gives surprising comfort, for there is nothing threatening here and the setting is really very pretty. It straddles the Otonabee River at a place where a nearby downstream lock has created a small, round lake. The town has ringed the lake with parks and put a large fountain in its middle. The fountain sprays water to great height and the spray from it catches rainbows on a sunny day even as it trembles under multicolored lights in the darkness of evening. The people on the street do not loiter and the public discourse is neither surly nor sophisticated.
It was a surprise, therefore, when on the verge of departure I was exposed to colorful characters who confirmed the obvious but easily forgotten truth that, no matter what the tenor of a place, is populace is never really more than a collection of individuals. In the early morning before the locks were open I pedalled over to an Internet cafe to do a little work and while I was there I was approached by a young Black man with skin so dark and a complexion so clean that I found it hard not to look at him. He was very young; he might have been a teenager. When he entered the place he appeared purposeful enough for he immediately came over near me to check on the status of the house computer that was not in use. It was free, but he did not sit down; he only looked at it and then turned to leave. A change of mind appeared to come over him, and he swung back abruptly and came over to speak with me. I looked up from my computer and over the top of my glasses in anticipation of his words. He asked me if I had seen a couple homosexual men while I had been in here and before I could answer he went on to explain that his father was making a ponographic movie. He then inquired as to whether I was interested in hiring on. I told him no, thank you, and he immediately said "sorry," and then departed.
I know that as a young man I was rather attractive to many homosexuals, but I had rather hoped that with the passage of years my appeal might have diminished. It always a source of frustration that men seemed to have a greater carnal interest in me than women. I know that age has improved my image with the latter group but I had perhaps deluded myself into believing that the reverse had happened with the former. In any event, with respect to this pornographic film, I doubt that the young man has any idea just how hard it would be under such conditions for a 62 year old heterosexual male to get it up.
It took longer to catch up on work than expected and so it was late morning before I was back with Kobuk preparing to cast off. A spectator appeared--an older man pushing a vintage bicycle that surely dated back to the days when men still wore dress hats. He was inquisitive and cheery and full of himself. He was interested in what I was doing , but even more interested in what he had done with his own life. In his unmistakably British accent--for he was not born Canadian--he would ask me a question and then use my answer as a springboard to launch into a discourse on some aspect of his own colorful life. There was much to tell for, although he did not look it, he was nearly eighty years old and evidently had used the time to experiment with many different things. He told me about his motorcycling--how over the years he had owned 81 of them and how a motorcycle club that he had started came to be perverted by the interests of wild young motocross racers. He explained to me how one time he had successfully completed a series of trades in which he started with a radio and ended up with a British delivery van. He went into some detail regarding his use of every saved penny to buy a one-way ticket to Canada, his arrival with nothing, and his hitchhiking from Toronto to Orillia in February to apply for a job. He told me about the time he had bought a run-down house on the lakefront and had doubled its size by jacking it up using a car jack, digging a hole underneath it, and then installing a basement using salvaged cinder blocks. He confessed to me the time when his bad judgment had got himself and his wife into trouble on a storm-lashed Lake Ontario. They had taken their sailboat out when they should not have and when his wife became hysterical he had slapped her around to get her to snap out of it. He talked about . . . , well, I guess you get the picture. He was overflowing with odd and unbelievable stories, believably told. Near the end, he introduced himself as Jack and invited me to his house for lunch, but I bowed out and went on my way. Hastings was a long ways away and for no particularly good reason I was set on reaching it before the end of the day.
Hastings Lock: 44* 18.505' N / 77* 57.465' W
Distance: 38 miles
Total Distance: 3,317 miles
Thursday, June 22, 2006
From here in Hastings to the end of the Trent Severn Waterway is only about fifty more miles, but the stretch is one in which eighteen locks bar the way. Last night I was tied off next to a 45' Carver and I got to talking with Wallace Gouk, a marine surveyor who is delivering it to a rich client in Toronto. He hopes to make it through this remaining obstacle course in a single day, but that will take an act of God, I think, since the locks are only open 9:00-4:00 on weekdays and much of the waterway has a 10 kilometer per hour speed limit. As for Kobuk and me, I expect the transit to take two days. Even this would be pushing it if tomorrow were not the start of a weekend when locks stay open longer hours..
Wallace lives two lives. He alternates between boat bum and marine surveyor, depending on his financial situation. He and his wife live on their boat for extended periods and then when the money runs out they return to respectability and use marine surveying (as well as an occasional boat delivery) to pay off debts and save a little money for the next spell of carefree cruising. They have made two runs down to Florida and have spent months at a time in both the Bahamas and the Florida Keys.
When Wallace heard about my intention to take Kobuk down there and out into the Caribbean, he seemed intrigued by the prospect and not the least dubious about Kobuk's capacity to cope. He said, "You came through the Great Lakes, didn't you? You must have seen some rough weather there and if you could handle that then you'll be alright in the ocean." He confirmed the idea that the ocean generally has a longer time period between passing wave crests and that this makes life much easier on a small boat like Kobuk. He did mention how difficult the passage from Florida to the Bahamas can be when the wind and the Gulf Stream work against each other, but said that it was just a matter of waiting for the right day. Actually, he encouraged me to only go when the forecast was for two successive days of light winds. That way, there would be a day of grace if Kobuk were to develop engine trouble in transit.
Wallace also told me about a marina on Grand Bahama Island where it is possible to rent a slip for $250 per month. According to him, the dock has a bar and a swimming pool immediately ashore, and the facilities are top notch. You can even, he said, rent a slip for a year and only have to pay $2,500. He has a couple friends who bought a sailboat and took it down there--and now they effectively have a Bahamian residence that only costs them their slip fees. Only when I get down to that region will I know whether or not I can rely on the things that Wallace has told me, but hearing these sorts of specifics from someone who actually has been there is the sort of stuff that sustains abstract dreams.
I had hoped to cover most of the remaining Waterway on this the first of the two days, but the clock ran faster than I had expected and so when Campbellford came into view well before half the distance was done, I took a look around and liked what I saw. I tied off at the city park there and resolved to carry on with a greater sense of urgency in the morning. That left me with a few hours of land-based freedom, so I cycled down to the swinging suspension bridge a couple miles south of town and then crossed over to take a look at Ranney Falls and Ferris Provincial Park. Nobody was about; I had the park to myself.
Campbellford City Park: 44* 18.468' N / 77* 47.985' W
Distance: 21 miles
Total Distance: 3,338 miles
Friday, June 23, 2006
This river--which in Peterborough is known as the Otonabee--is now called the Trent, just as it was upstream of Peterborough in the Kawartha Lakes region. This double name change is even more confusing than the single name change of the Big Horn river back in Wyoming, which in its headwaters is known as the Wind River. Still, I must say that here in the downstream section of the Trent the name is appropriate for in fact the landscape has a sort of domesticated naturalness that must be somewhat like the valley of its namesake river back in England. Throughout much of the Georgian Bay and along most of this Waterway, summer homes are the most conspicuous human element on the landscape, but here in the lower Trent River Valley one more often sees forest interspersed with open meadows and working farms. There are many non-farm residences as well, but they do not cling to the river banks in the same desperate way that summer homes generally do. Some are near shore, some not so near, but overall they do not give the impression that the river is the reason they are here.
The river itself has pleasing variety to it. Rarely does it run straight for any great distance and now it is possible to see that it runs in a valley, one that is broad and low and has low hills set back from the river course. On the river itself, embayments rich with bullrushes appear frequently while elongated islands occasionally string themselves down the the middle of the waterway. The width of the river varies unpredictably, now carrying on through a narrow and sinuous passage, now breaking out onto a sweep of open water. It has its appeal, but after the harsh glory of the Shield country its pleasing looks feel a little too contrived.
Of course, all of the Trent Severn Waterway is somewhat contrived. With every lock there is a dam or barrage that has backed up water behind it and I daresay that throughout its 240 mile extent there are no stretches of natural waterway left. In all instances, the modifications have been at a blessedly small scale, so most everything along the way looks as if the human hand has been governed by a sense of moderation. Given the power of the technologies at our disposal and the natural advantages of giantism in our economic system, signs of moderation may actually be encouraging indicators of heroic behavior.
Between Campbellford and Trenton where the waterway finally empties into Lake Ontario, there are twelve locks to be gotten through. Under the best of circumstances, when a lock is ready and waiting for you with its gates open at your time of arrival, it typically takes about twenty minutes to transit it. If a lock is not ready and you have to wait, there typically are concrete piers on both sides running out from its entrance slot and all along the piers there will be cleats or bollards on which to tie off. Along one of the two piers there will be a section that is painted a slate blue color instead of being left a natural gray, and this is where one should tie off if planning to transit immediately. Even though all the locks have chambers with concrete walls, the more recently constructed ones do less damage to Kobuk than ones that are showing their age. With time, the concrete on the walls chips and flakes and and develops rough areas where the surface is very pitted or even has large chunks missing. This is because the standard method of holding the boat against the wall does not permit a person doing it alone to properly snug up. The hull cannot be kept from pivoting in any wind or water turbulence and sooner or later the action becomes so extreme that the actual hull near the bow or stern contacts the wall directly rather than being cushioned by the fenders that cannot be hung from the extreme ends of the boat. When this happens, pray for smooth concrete.
Many of the locks are infested with zebra mussels, that exotic fresh water mollusc from Europe imported to the Great Lakes in ocean going vessels that after the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway were able to pump out their bilges in the Great Lakes system rather than having to do so in the salty waters of the ocean. While being lowered down in one lock, I got sprayed by water from some unknown source. Only later in a different lock did I notice that sometime shortly after being exposed to the air these mussels squirt a small stream of water, concentrated and brief, like a single pulse from a squirt gun. I later learned that zebra mussels actually purify water by removing organic matter from it. This means they were squirting me with clean water, at least. As an exotic species, the zebra mussel is viewed by many as undesirable--an attitude, come to think of it, very similar to the one many people hold regarding illegal aliens. Both zebra mussels and uninvited Mexicans seem to thrivc in Anglo-America, however, so I guess there must be something here for them to do.
When Kobuk finally cleared the last lock and passed under the Trenton bridge, the open waters of the Bay of Quinte were visible in the distance and we were out of the Waterway. I tied Kobuk off at the dock in front of a small town park and we spent the night there. The less said about Trenton the better, however, for the town is not healthy. This is an intuitive judgement rather than a reasoned one--but that only means I adhere to it with greater emotion.
Fraser Park Marina, Trenton: 44* 06.121' N / 77* 34.475' W
Distance: 31 miles
Total Distance: 3,369 miles