OUR PLAN

We are writing this blog for one reason and one reason only. To provide a vehicle to make it easier to remain in touch with our family and friends back home.

Our plan is simple. Depart our home port of Goderich Ontario in the Summer of 2011. Cruise Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron while visiting some of the ports and anchorages we have missed over the years. As well as revisiting some of our favourite haunts hopefully with some of our very good friends with whom we have cruised with many times before. All the while adding up the miles and gaining experience with our new trawler. Our first and only self imposed deadline is to be in the Chicago area around Labour Day. South of Chicago, weather and circumstances will guide us!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

9/22-23/11 Grafton IL. to Alton IL.

We were only going to Alton today which was about 14 miles away.  We departed at 0845 and were glad to underway again. Alton was a bigger city and had more to offer us. Things such as restaurants, antique stores, cheap fuel and discounted docks. The trip was an easy one and when we arrived at Alton we fueled up and pumped out and were ready to hunker down as it was a cool and cloudy day. We reviewed some charts with Bob and Kemba then had a bit of a lazy afternoon.
OUR LADY OF THE RIVERS SHRINE

THIS REMINDED US OF THE BRUCE PENINSULA BACK HOME
 This 50' shrine was built after the disastrous flood of 1951 in gratitude for the water stopping short of flooding the village of Portage des Sioux. Mid July, each year the blessing of the fleet is held at the shrine. (Notes from Skipper Bob)
HYDRO-ELECTRIC POWER PLANT


UNLOADING COAL TO FEED THE POWER PLANT

CASINO ON THE WATER

LEWIS BRIDGE

We have been invited to diner that evening along with four other looper couples. The local AGLCA harbour hosts Robert and Patty Mitchell with Maggie the wonder dog from Orinoco have been busy the last week or so taking all passing loppers to one of the local restaurants for dinner. They have been busy escorting ten or so people every day for the last week or so. Thanks to Patty and Robert from all us loopers. Your hospitality, generosity and laughs are appreciated and will be remembered.
L to R Kemba, Terri, Mark, Rusty, Betty, Patty, Robert, Steve, Beth and of course Bob.
DOWNTOWN ALTON

A LOT OF PAWN SHOPS IN THE AREA

The next day we were picked up at the dock in a Cadillac which was used as a shuttle car by the local grocery store. Any time a boater gets a shuttle to a grocery store it is a good day and today was no exception. We did our shopping and returned to the boat with a warm feeling that only a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator can provide.
After that we called a cab and went for lunch with the intention of hunting down the antique stores that Terri had heard about. Lunch was great and that’s all I have to say about that Terri. My afternoon was spent assuming the position at all the various antique stores. If I was lucky there would be a chair for me to sit in if not I would just have to look interested in the antiques. I have done this many times before and new my role, that being the supporting husband. Terri has done a lot of things for me over the years and this was a little payback. I did not grumble. The one curious thing that happened was meeting a merchant that didn’t want to sell his wares. Terri found what she thought was the perfect chair for our front hall back home. When she enquired about shipping the merchant said that they don’t ship goods and then lost the sale. Things must be good in the antique business.
We would be leaving tomorrow and wanted a good rest so it was a good meal on board another episode of Rome and off to bed for me.
Mark

9/18/11 to 9/21/11 Grafton Marina in Grafton IL.

We initially planned on staying here two or three days. We were up for a good time and a good rest plus we had some boat chores to accomplish. The marina offered a dockage special to all loopers that included an additional three free nights of docking if you paid for four. This was a good marketing plan on their part. We were ready to leave yesterday after only four, but decided to stay one more day because we managed to get a better Wi-Fi signal if we went up onto the fly bridge, which is another advantage of having a covered slip.
THE METHODIST'S ARE IN TROUBLE NOW

AUTUMN HAS ARRIVED

CITY HALL AND GRAFTON'S OTHER POLICE CAR
Terri and I have made a habit of doing our site seeing around the late mornings and early afternoons. As Lunch is somewhere in between we tried to pick a different restaurant every day. Terri says that I write too much about food on the blog so I will try and keep this relatively short. Terri has even threatened to write her own blog about Grafton. But, Terri that would be two blog entries for you on this trip? Maybe she is waiting for a little encouragement from you the reader. Anyway our first lunch was to be at a place called Finns Restaurant. It was on the edge of town and about a twenty minute walk so we had a bit of an appetite worked up by the time we got there. The place was a little unusual to begin with and became more interesting as we were seated. Every table was booth style with a huge aquarium visible at the end of the booth. It was stocked with numerous very large fish and lots of catfish that had clearly outgrown their habitat. Catfish was the house special here and while I am not usually paranoid of these things I did put two and two together. Right or wrong the feeling was strong enough to ruin my appetite and turn me a little green. The fish in the tank seemed to all line up at the glass and stare at me, with their facial features seeming to plead “please order the salad”. It mattered not, as my appetite was gone and whatever I ordered would be not good. I did order the Cod as I knew there were no Cod in the tank, but even that didn’t set well with my stomach. Somehow I knew that the Cod and the Catfish had to be cousins of some kind. This plus a waitress that was not really on the ball and the fact that even the beer tasted skunky made me want to leave. Terri enjoyed her meal though and it seemed the greener I appeared the more she enjoyed her meal. She might tell you different if she does write her version of this encounter with the fishes. If not my version will have to go uncontested and be written into history.
THE FIN INN

TONIGHT'S SPECIAL????
Grafton has been hit hard by the recession to put it mildly. There are a number of stores boarded up and for sale and the ones that do exist seem to be multitasking, by running multiple businesses out of the same location. Any port in a storm I suppose. There seem to be a lot of bars for the population of this town and they all seem to in many ways cater to Bikers. We did not see many motorcycles in town but high season has passed and there was no other reason to visit Grafton other than the marina and the bars. There are a few decent winery retail locations that tried very hard to promote their products with displays, wine tasting and buy two get bottles and get one free specials. But there was little or no industry that I could see. A town does not live by retail alone.
THIS WAS A REAL WORK HORSE IN IT'S DAY

GET YOUR BIKE OUT OF THE RAIN

BACK STREET IN GRAFTON IL.

HOUSE ON THE HILL

BEST BIKER BAR


GUEST HOUSE

TERRI THOUGHT THIS HOUSE WAS CUTE IN IT'S DAY

THIS OUT HOUSE COULD BE YOURS FOR ONLY $50

GET YOUR HAIR CUT, BUY SOME COFFEE AND RENT A MOVIE ALL IN ONE LOCATION

READ THE SIGN

GREAT PRICE ON GAS. CANADA IS GETTING HOSED

STORE FRONT SIGN

CONTRADICTION OF HALLOWEEN AND A STATUE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
Terri and I passed by the Catholic Church and like a magnet we seem to be drawn in. This beautiful little church was built in 1871 according to the plaque. It suffered severe flooding damage as did the rest of the town in 1993. It had water and mud up to six feet deep in the church. But as communities often do they did recover and the church was totally restored and rededicated.
ST. PATRICKS CATHOLIC CHURCH

INSIDE ST. PATRICKS


COMMEMORATING THE FLOOD OF 1993

One afternoon Terri and I had invited Bob and Kemba for a visit aboard Terrmar. On one of our excursions we ran into Rusty and Betty from The Cooper and they were travelling with Beth and Steve from Gemini. If you remember we had spent a full day on the water with The Cooper but not allowed off of the boat when we stopped at a lock for the evening. We have not seen them since that day but felt that we knew them well after our short time together on the water. We invited them over that afternoon and as they were travelling with Gemini they also were welcomed. It turned out to be a great visit by all with lots of laughs and stories. Bob DeGroot has turned into a bit of a technical guru and a worthy adversary as he was fielding technical questions from all quarters. He did answer most of them correctly and was impressive. However I did notice that there were a few mistakes in his ramblings but did not have the heart to bring it to his attention. I must do this in private at some future opportunity. Lol
RUSTY AND BETTY FROM "THE COOPER"

BOB AND KEMBA FROM "SPIRIT DANCER"

BETH AND STEVE FROM "GEMINI"
On our last day in Grafton I was allowed to pick the Restaurant and my first choice was the same choice that was voted down on day one, two, three, and four. As there are only the two of us you can see who has the tie breaking vote. Today was different either she was tired of saying no or she had run out of alternatives. We would be guests of the Big Kahuna. This is the restaurant directly above the marine office and the whole complex is built upon a floating dock. When we walked up the stairs the place was deserted except for a few of the staff. But outside on the patio the view was impressive. The marina with the Illinois River in the background is my kind of view. We order our drinks and our food and my choice was the homemade pizza. It turned out to be very good but somehow my pepperonis were substituted by peppers of the hot variety. This fact plus the Jalapeno peppers proved to be a good combination as medicinal treatment for my new found cold. I was steaming out of my eyes and ears even after I removed most of the hot stuff from the Pizza. Terri had a piece and it received her stamp of approval as well. She had ordered the Shrimp after confirming with the waiter that the Crab on the menu was not real Crab. But the Shrimp was real and graded an A by Terri, as it was the best she has had in quite a while. I ended up taking half of the pizza home for it would make a great lunch tomorrow and help to drive away any lingering cold symptoms that I might have. Terri says I talk too much about food and I just don’t get that.
VIEW FROM THE RESTAURANT
As we were eating our meal two gentlemen walked into the restaurant and sat down. The first gentleman had his name on his shirt. “Hello” Luke, says I and he was quick to come back with “Hi Dad”. I knew the next 10 minutes would be enjoyable as both parties seemed prepared to chat. I don’t think Terri cringed, as she is getting used to my shyness by now. These two men were local and somehow made a living as chain saw artists. They would travel to a customer’s home and carve with a chainsaw whatever the customer wanted into a tree stump. That in its self is not unheard of but what was unique was Mike’s Beard. If you look at his picture and look down at his right hand you will see he is holding the end of his beard. Of course I asked if he wanted to be famous be letting me photograph him for the blog. He didn’t mind too much other than he didn’t want his ex-wife to find out that he was going to be famous. It seems that in the divorce settlement she got his dog and he missed her immensely, the dog that is. When I assured him that he would only be famous in Canada he agreed and posed for the pictures. Quite a pair they were and our conversation did add to our dining experience.
 
LUKE MISSED HIS DOG

THAT'S HIS BEARD IN HIS RIGHT HAND

 
THE BIG KAHUNA

THE GUY ON THE RIGHT HAS A LEARNER BEARD

After lunch it was back to the boat to make preparations for leaving tomorrow. We filled up the water tanks and I checked the engine over. Terri spent the afternoon on the computer performing her work duties. Tomorrow we would go to Alton IL. and we were looking forward to it.
TERRMAR AT REST

SMUDGE AT REST

TERRI CHECKING OUT FUTURE STOPS AND KEEPING WARM

Mark



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

9/17/11 Mel’s River Dock and Restaurant in Harden IL. to Grafton Marina in Grafton IL.


Today’s trip would be a short one of about 21 miles. We didn’t rush getting going and consequently we were last of 4 boats to depart. No worries as we know the way. Lol Today's trip was uneventful except for one thing. Yesterday morning when we left the anchorage we noticed a vibration on the boat. The vibration varied in severity as the engine varied it’s RPM’s. This of course meant that we had picked up some debris in the river and it had coiled itself around the prop or the prop shaft. No matter what we did, no matter what maneuver we tried we couldn’t shake it. With the urging of Bob on Spirit Dancer we tried going at a high rate of speed in reverse in order to try and unwind whatever it was. But nothing would work. Note: Before we left Goderich I had installed what is called a shaft cutter on the prop shaft. This is a very sharp ring of serrated knives mounted on the shaft and is meant to cut any lines that might become entangled on the shaft. I had done this in preparation for the crab pots of Florida and the Chesapeake in mind. But clearly there were no crab pots here. It had to be debris. Maybe an old net or something, whatever it was it would have to be removed. There was a time when I would have dropped the anchor and donned a diver’s mask and jumped in to clear the shaft myself. But as I can’t hold my breath very long anymore and the water was to muddy to see, we would have to hire a diver to do it in Grafton. But wait! I had said a prayer yesterday and as the good lord decided to not answer it I was resigned to hiring the diver today. Did I say wait? We eased away from the dock picking up speed and presto. No more vibrations at any RPM. My prayers were answered and whatever was entangled around the shaft had somehow fallen off through the night. A miracle you say. God answered in his own time and he is just trying to teach me patience I guess. I can be a slow learner God but eventually I do get it please keep trying. Thank you.
NOT SURE IF THESE ARE HUNTING CAMPS OR HOMES

SMUDGE SNUGGLED AGAINST THE COLD

HUGE HOUSE ON A HILL

THESE TWO BOATS STAYED WITH US LAST NIGHT IN HARDIN IL.

We arrived at Grafton Marina which is a fairly big marina with most of the slips under cover. We have never experienced this type of mooring before and it was kind of cool. I just hoped that they have worked out a plan to manage the birds. Any boater can attest to bird poop and gel coat do not mix. After we are safely moored and registered at the office our thoughts turn to lunch. Terri spies a huge banner right across the street that reads, FREE WINE TASTING and you guessed it, we ventured no further. While the food was only average the wine was good Terri said and all is well with the world.
ANOTHER CANADIAN FLAG. WE DON'T SEE MANY OF THESE ANY MORE

SHE'S A DUMMY

I THINK OF AL WHEN I SEE THIS TRUCK

I THINK OF BRAD WHEN I SEE THIS TRACTOR

SOMEBODY CHECKING OUT OUR BOAT

OUR WELCOME NOTICE

After a short afternoon of checking out the sights and searching for the promised action we finally gave up. It seems the weather had chased everybody and the cold wind and rain managed to cancel a lot of the functions that were planned for the 175 anniversary of the founding of Grafton. No worries as we retreated back to our boat and of course outcome the computers. Terri doing real work and I back at this blog. A nice dinner of pork chops and veggies rounded out the evening and again after an episode of something prerecorded I was off to bed. Terri watched some kind of British Period Piece from the BBC that she had on DVD and everyone was happy.
Good night!
Mark