The Story of Alan Paul from the UK and his epic trip through the American great lakes and canals.

The Yoyage on “FriendShip”
Fairport Ohio to Delaware City Delaware
July & August 1997


The Yoyage on “FriendShip”
Fairport, OH to Delaware City, DL
July & August 1997
The voyage on ‘FriendShip’

I have been home for three weeks now .  Many people whom Brenda and I met along our journey through the States and Canada asked to hear how we fared.  I have been putting off the moment when I sit down to write, knowing it is potentially a long saga.  I decided to write a collective letter to you all, which I hoped would not be too long and boring to read. Well it’s gone on and on ! I defy anybody to read to the end !

There were no major disasters.  The boat and I arrived in Delaware in relatively good shape. At the end of the last long day’s trip I think the boat might have been in better shape than I was !

I enclose photographs for those of you whom we had the presence of mind to photograph whilst we were with you.

Preparing for the journey
The seed that germinated the idea of sailing in North America was the time spent with my friends Clark and Lori, two summers ago in Delaware, when we hired a small boat. The owner took us out into the Delaware River for half a day (and managed to get us stuck on a sandbank !)

Whilst I was running a teachers summer school in Vermont last year, one of the teachers (a keen yachts man) told me that it was possible to pass from the Great Lakes to Lake Champlain and then into to the Hudson River. That information clinched the idea of this trip for me.  Most of you know that I found the yacht “FriendShip” through the WWW. It was owned by Mike, who turned out to be another Brit,    I felt as though I got to know you quite well Mike, during the course of our friendly and protracted negotiations via email and phone. I hope that it might be possible to meet you now that you are also back in England.

What a stroke of good luck, when I learned that the boat was situated 30 minutes drive from the home of Anna who had completed her international exchange teaching practice in a Nottingham school with me as her tutor.  I called to see them on my first visit to view the boat prior to buying it and was immediately immersed in a wealth of kindness and hospitality, which extended for many weeks later after I had bought the boat and come to work on it prior to starting my trip.  I will always be indebted to Anna’s parents Denny and Kathy, who transported me to the boat on numerous occasions from their home and to many and varied places to buy equipment and food.  I recall Denny saying after he had taken me on yet another journey to return inappropriate stuff to a store;  “No problem, I am learning quite a lot about boat equipment”  Thank goodness there is the 30 day return rule operating for goods bought in the States.  Thanks to all your family for your enduring patience and support.  I doubt if I would have achieved the success I did without your help. Needless to say I enjoyed my time at your home, riding the grass mower and dodging Denny’s bees and of course the clay pigeon shooting.  You and your club members were very generous in your praise of my mediocre efforts.

Lake Eire
I eventually set sail around the 17th July from Fairport Harbour on Lake Eire destined for Astabula 30 miles eastwards along the coast.  The wind died mid afternoon and I relied on my Evinrude 6 hp twin cylinder two stroke outboard engine, for the rest of that day’s journey. The outboard was an unknown quantity at this stage, but it proved to be a sturdy work horse capable of pushing “FriendShip” along at a good 6.5 knots for over 50% of the 1500 miles journey. I became an expert at cleaning spark plugs, sooted up with the oil and petrol (sorry Gasoline !) mixture.

My arrival at Astabula was one of the most memorable ones of the journey. I arrived up the river full of apprehension at my first port of call, calling out to a group of people standing alongside a whole row of yachts, if there were any over night berths.  This group who were Canadians, immediately sprang into action moved a boat along and made room for me to come along side, grabbed my ropes and made me secure to the berth.  When I explained who I was, where I was from and the journey I was starting, they were full of helpful information and advice. Eventually I was asked was there anything else I required. It had been a very hot day and my immediate response was “something to drink”. I was offered a beer, and taken to the tables where their respective families were about to eat a meal. They told me that they were going to feed me as they had prepared too much for themselves. I had a very pleasant evening with them.  Larry who was born in Ireland and brought up in Berkshire and his Canadian wife Kathy. They were on a 3 week sailing holiday from the Canadian side of the Lake. They want to exchange their house in St Thomas, Ontario and their 30 foot yacht for a 3 week holiday with someone in the UK.  The group included Alex who lived and worked in the Thames Valley area before moving to Canada and his wife Colleen, a Canadian by berth. They had lived in the Toronto area before selling their house. Alex has sold his building business and Colleen has sold her catering business. They now have a beautiful yacht equipped with all the self sustaining energy and navigation devices that one could want for their intended purpose of living on board and sailing where their fancy takes them and eventually finding their way to Florida and the Caribbean.  I hope you get this letter Alex and Colleen via your PO Box in Ontario and that your journey is progressing well.

The following morning I bid them all farewell and set off down to the breakwater at the mouth of the river. The previous day had been calm with no wind and similar weather was forecast to continue for several days. When I switched on the marine radio to check the forecast whilst travelling down river, I was surprised to hear of winds gusting up to 30 knots . I had the 150% jib tied to the rail ready for raising, and decide that the 100% jib would be a better choice.  I set about motoring up and down behind the breakwater using the outboard and the auto helm attached to the tiller, whilst I attempted to change the jib sails.  I was working in a relative tight situation alongside a sandy pleasure beach and had about three quarters of a mile to motor up or down, before I had to abandon the sail work and dash back to the tiller to turn the boat through 180 degrees.  The wind was blowing so hard at one point that I had to put the outboard on full throttle to turn the hull into the wind to complete the turn around.  After about 6 passes up and down behind the breakwater I had completed the change of sail. However it was now 12.45pm; rather late in the day to start a 35 mile journey to Eire. My expensive bicycle ($12 for the 10 gear bike and $10 for the seat stem !) was not fastened down in the cabin and appeared to be defying gravity whilst I was changing the sails.  I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and returned back up river to join my new found friends for a cup tea and plan a fresh start the next day.

On my return I was received like a long lost friend.  Two hours later I was sat in a car on my way with the entire group having been invited for a meal at the home of one of the Astabula yacht club members. They were delightful people whose names I cannot remember.  Can you help me Larry and Kathy ?  Perhaps you could send them a copy of this message ?  I recall they had English connections, the lady a recently retired infant school teacher was related to Julian Amourey, who was our minister of state for home affairs until the last election.  We had a splendid meal and a great evening chatting away.  I recall Larry saying that my boat and ambitions for the journey at that time reminded him of Sir Francis Chichester who also sailed across open seas in open boats.  No doubt you’ll be pleased to hear Larry that I actually made the trip without major mishap. I will try and find someone for you to do a house and boat exchange.  I seem to recall making several frantic phone calls from Astabula to Brenda at home in Nottingham and Les’s wife Marilyn in Toronto making last minute arrangements for Brenda to travel to their house in Scarborough to await my arrival, because their didn’t seem to be any chance of me getting through to Kingston by the end of the week when Brenda was due to arrive in Montreal from the UK. Thanks for your efforts on that day, Kathy.  I seem to remember you phoning all your relatives in an attempt to find me a crew member so that I could travel through the Welland canal.  You even talked about taking a day off from work to crew for me yourself if necessary ?

The next morning I travelled down river along side Alex and Colleen’s boat , wished them a good journey and waved them good bye at the mouth of the river as they turned west for Cleveland and I turned East for Eire.  What a great day’s sail that was with a following wind all day.  The speedometer was showing between 6.5 and 7 knots for most of the day. I arrived in good shape at Eire at around 4.30pm. I must have averaged around 6 knots for the whole day.

The following calm “no wind” day at Eire was spent stocking up with food on the boat.   I set out on the subsequent morning full of hope for a good day’s sail to Dunkirk. As I motored along the channel out of Eire harbour into the open lake, several of the power boats travelling along side turned back when they reached the bigger waves riding on the lake.  I was driven to carry on as Brenda was due to arrive in Montreal in 3 days time and I was still 200 miles away !  The easterly wind was from the Buffalo direction, which was exactly were I wanted to go. I eventually got the sails up and calculated that if I tacked out into the middle of the lake I could make good progress towards Dunkirk on the opposite tack.

All went well on the tack towards the middle of the lake, I had the boat being steered by the auto helm and it was going well, pushing 7 knots most of the time. At 12 noon I changed tack and set a course for Dunkirk, a distance of 38 miles according to my GPS reading. The boat went well for another 30 minutes when I realised the sails were flapping.  It was obvious that the wind had dropped, leaving me still opposite Eire, but now I was out in the middle of the lake !.  I motored for the rest of the day and decided that I wouldn’t make it to Dunkirk were I had arranged to meet our friend Mary Anne for an evening meal at 5.30pm.  I had to make for Barcelona which was the next nearest port.  As soon as I arrived there I called the Dunkirk Yacht Club in the hopes that they could find Mary Ann to give her message.  As soon as I started speaking the guy at the yacht club said “oh you’re the man with the English accent who I am told should be arriving here to-night”  Mary Anne had made contact before me.  Well Mary Anne, we eventually met up when you arrived at Barcelona for a meal. I appreciated your efforts to travel over 100 miles for a meal and a visit to the boat for just a couple of hours.

I had decided by this time that I could not spare the time to call in at Sturgeon Point to call on Bill and his wife Joan, who had originally expressed interest in spending a day or so on the boat, or detour to Rochester to see their daughter Lee.

I set sail across the North East end of Lake Eire straight for the Welland Canal.  I had learned by this time that I had to have a second crewmember before I would be allowed to pass through the canal.  I was told that it was possible to find people who would come with you on payment of 50 or so Canadian Dollars.  Where will I find them on a quiet Sunday afternoon?

I left Barcelona at 5.30am, alongside the local fishermen and set a course taken from my GPS unit that would take me some 40 miles to Port Colbourne.  The weather was warm with clear skies and the water glassy calm with NO WIND.  I motored across the lake to Port Colbourne with the tiller under the control of the auto-helm and spent the morning stitching up the leatherette cover to one of four very serviceable seat cushions I had found in the garbage bin at Fairport Harbour. I made good time arriving at 1.45pm. The outboard was proving to be a reliable workhorse.

The Welland Canal
I had just finished tying my boat to some pontoons when a larger yacht arrived with 3 guys from Buffalo.  They asked if I was intending to go through the canal ?  I said I was but needed to find a crewmember before I could start.  They immediately offered for one of them to travel with me on my boat.  This was the start of a very enjoyable time with Mike a police detective, Neal who was an optometrist and another Mike (?) who was a lawyer, all from the Buffalo area.  They were travelling through the canal for a 3-day yacht-racing regatta on Lake Ontario. A great crew who kept feeding me with beers all the way through the locks.

I had heard haunting stories of how long it would take to get through the 8 locks on the Welland canal, anything from 14 hours to 36 hours depending on the commercial traffic at any one time.  We made the required call at telephone mounted on the wall at the entrance of the canal and asked when we could pass through.  “We are fairly quiet at the moment so you can start now or wait until to-morrow morning ” So we started poste haste and to our surprise we found every lock open to us on arrival. I tied up alongside Mike’s boat who had wooden scraperboards placed outside his normal plastic fenders to guard against the rough concrete walls. This made my passage through the locks a relatively easy time. All went well and we were through to the last lock entrance by 7.45pm. A record we thought.  But out luck ran out as we had to wait and watch three commercial boats come up through the last lock one at a time before we were given the green light to enter the lock at 11.45pm ! Commercial boats paying anything up to 2 or 3 thousand Canadian Dollars to pass through take precedence over small boats who only pay 80 Dollars.

We eventually reached the Ontario exit from the canal at around midnight and had to find our way to Port Dalhousie for the night. I had previously said I wouldn’t plan to enter any harbour at night especially on my own, after my experiences entering Dunkirk Island in the Chesapeake Bay the previous year.  I find it impossible to gain any perception of depth when looking at navigation lights in the black of night.  However I had the Latitude and Longitude for Port Dalhousie entered on my GPS and the combination of that and ship’s compass took me right to the entrance of the harbour, where I tied up two berths away from Mike and company.  We were all dog tired and VERY hungry. I shall always remember the long detour walk we had to take along the riverbank to cross the bridge, which gave access to the town, which was just across the river from our mooring.  We eventually collapsed in a Pizza place at 1.15am and I managed to eat enough Pizza to gain the energy to walk all the way back to the boat… (Well I had been up since 4.30am the previous day ! ) Whilst I had my glasses on to read the menu (a choice of Pizza, Pizza or Pizza, in that order !) Neal took a professional but disdainful look at my battered spectacle case with it’s even grubbier cloth insert and gave me one of his firms new cloth inserts.  Thanks Neal, I still have it, but only just. More of that later. I have some photographs guys, which are enclosed. Thanks, it was a great time being with you.

Lake Ontario
I woke late the following morning and after breakfast cycled into town several times to collect enough petrol to make the journey across Lake Ontario directly for Scarborough Bluffs.  Leaving at 11am with little or no helpful winds I motored on a compass bearing taken from the GPS and arrived at The Highland yacht Club at 6.45pm after a relatively uneventful passage.  I tied up at the end of a spine of finger berths and asked if I could stay the night.  The members there, many of who were originally from England were all very interested to hear of my intended journey.  I was an interesting experience to have first one member and then another wander down to my end of the berths to pass the time of day and to hear about our trip, and tell me where they came from in England etc.

I called Les’s house to tell him I had arrived. Brenda had just arrived by train earlier that afternoon and came to the boat with Les that evening.  We had a pleasant two days at the Highland Yacht Club.   The members couldn’t have been, more friendly and helpful.  I recall cycling to the local supermarket from the club up a very steep hill and was just about to cycle back on my return when I was “ambushed” by a guy with a station wagon who said “you’re the guy from England who is down at the Highlands ? ” “Yes I am” , “Well put your bag in the back I’ll take it back for you, when I return.  I declined his offer as it was downhill on the way back and I had just bought our lunch which we wanted to eat before Les returned with Joe another mutual friend in education.  When I returned, yet another member came to talk to us.  He commented on the fact that I had made the journey to the shops on my bicycle as though it was quite a feat; and then said “I bet you haven’t been to the liquor store by bike, because that is in the opposite direction and about twice as far, but I am willing to take you if you want to go.”  I was very conscious of the fact that I didn’t have any beer on board whilst I was with the guys from Buffalo and felt it important to remedy that state of affairs and in any case you you can’t refuse an offer of transport to buy some beer !. This man was of German origin who had attended a private boarding school in Germany during World War II.  He told me an interesting story about his teacher of English language, an Englishman, who for some reason had not returned to England at the beginning of the war, but continued to live in the boarding school and teach English to the students. He explained it by saying that the school, which had a very high reputation, was set in the countryside and attended by children of wealthy and conservative parents.  The Nazi organisation left the school alone to continue with its affairs and the English teacher continued to live at the school and teach English to the end of the war.  The school had a good exchange program with Abbottsholme School in Staffordshire, prior to the war.  I know Abbottsholme school, having taken hockey teams there when I used to work in Newcastle under Lyme.  What a coincidence to meet this man, who I guess is now in his 70’s.

Les and Joe came to visit us on the boat after lunch. Joe was very welcome as he was sporting a bottle of good wine.  I am sorry we weren’t able to see you and the family again, Joe as you were going away for a two week holiday in your own brand new power boat on the Trent-Severn waterway system.

We spent our last evening in Scarborough with our friend and fellow Liverpudlian Alan and his wife Una who took us to a little restaurant in the outskirts of Toronto. Alan is a keen  dinghy sailor.  I think he was some what surprised to learn that I had sailed directly to Scarborough across Lake Ontario from Port Dalhuise. ( Did you sail directly across the lake from Dalhousie ?”  “Yes I did”  “Hmmm”) There was a time when I couldn’t see any coast line, but I always had sight of the CN Tower in Toronto. The GPS bearing had been true to form and right on target.  We had an enjoyable meal with them.  I will always recall Una wishing us well for the journey and saying that she thought Brenda was very brave to make the trip and joking that I was foolhardy (I think it was a joke Una ? We made it OK anyway)

The following morning we spoke to another Highland Yacht Club member who had just returned from a journey on the Hudson River.  He gave us lots of encouragement, telling us what an enjoyable experience he had.

Brenda and I set off from the Highland into a fresh breeze that was blowing directly against us.  We had not planned for Brenda to travel on the big lakes, but I hadn’t made to Kingston in time.  I was very apprehensive as to how Brenda would be on Lake Ontario. She was thinking what I am doing here I’m supposed to be on an enjoyable holiday !   In the event she took some seasick tablets and managed not to be sick. (sorry…. anti seasick tablets ! ) There were 2 to 3 foot waves on our quarter which rocked and slowed us down slightly but we eventually made it that evening to Newcastle.  We berthed and made a brief acquaintance with Hans and Eva from Toronto moored next to our berth. They have been living in Canada for 20 years or more.  Hans is Dutch and Eva came from Poland with her parents when she was 11 years old.

We bid farewell to Hans and Eva telling them that we were aiming for Cobourg and casually said we might see you there. We arrived at Cobourg at about 3.30 pm after motoring all day as the wind was right on our nose all day.  We very surprised to see Hans and Eva arrive half an hour after us.  They said that they had left just 20 minutes after us and had been trying to catch up with us all day. We couldn’t understand why they hadn’t caught us as they had a slightly bigger and newer boat than ours with a much bigger inboard engine. Our outboard engine is going up in my estimation.   We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for supplies and walking around the town with Hans and Eva who were intent on showing us a particular type of Canadian architecture. I don’t think we ever did see a complete road of the same type that Eva had remembered from a previous visit, but it was an enjoyable walk and we had interesting conversations.  We enjoyed our joint barbecue that evening and planned to travel together to the next port of call at the entrance to the Murray canal that would take us in from the open lake in the general direction of Kingston which was some days travel away.

Hans and Eva knew of a mooring on the government wharf at Presquile Point. A small stone quay which is at the end of a shallow channel away from the main route to the Murray canal.  Both boats arrived safely and we had a joint meal in their boat. The quay was quite remote with a couple of houses nearby and we were sat talking and discussing whether anyone would come to collect a mooring fee from us. Just at that moment a guy came shooting across the water from the opposite shore in a small open boat with a high powered outboard.  He tied up alongside the wharf and said “good evening I am the harbour master and I’ve come to collect the mooring fees”  I said “we have just been talking about you and whether you would turn up ” I thought I detected an English accent and said “you weren’t born in Canada were you?”  He made an evading sort of joke answer pretending I thought to put on a London cockney accent.  ” I Reckon you were born within 50 miles of London ”  No” he said “I come from Mansfield”  Mansfield is five miles from Ravenshead. He was as astonished as we were when we told him that we came from Ravenshead.  We spent a good while chatting.  He was interested to hear about local activities and changes that were taking place in the Mansfield area.  He signed our receipt with his old Mansfield address of 21 years ago and disappeared as quickly as he came back to the small marina he owned on the opposite shore.

On our return to our boat an hour after dusk. I found that I had left a cabin light on and the cabin covers open.  The inside of the boat had a haze of mosquitoes swarming around the light.  I closed the covers and blasted the cabin with ‘Raid’ several times during the next 15 minutes so that we could sleep in a mosquito free area. We eventually got to bed after sweeping up dozens of dead insects that evening and more the following morning.  Why do I always have to be reminded of the obvious, the hard way !

Our trip with Hans and Eva through the Murray canal was uneventful. We finished up being the lead boat to some half dozen boats who trailed after us in single file through this canal which is unimpeded by locks, but had several swing bridges to negotiate.  Payment to the bridges keepers was made by depositing a couple of dollars into a small bag held out by the keepers on the end of a long stick, as we passed through.  Hans later admitted he was quite amused to see me doing my washing in a bucket whilst we were passing through the canal, leaving the tiller under the care of the Auto-helm. He took it as an indication that I was capable and determined enough to complete the journey ahead. What an intelligent chap you are Hans !

On leaving the canal. We both raised our sails to take advantage of the light following wind and for part of the day were able to proceed without the motor running. Hans took the lead at the end of the day and I followed him into the Marina at Deseronto were we docked for the night. We also refuelled and Hans attempted to get his toilet holding tank sucked out.  After 20 minutes we decided that the antiquated pump mechanism wasn’t achieving anything and gave up.  The general state of the Marina facilities was unclean. Needless to say we didn’t use their toilets.

The following morning we said goodbye to Hans and Eva who had to make the return journey back to Toronto.  I am enclosing some photographs for you, Hans and Eva, of your Yacht under full sail and others of you departing from Deseronto.

Brenda and I left half an hour later in a slight early morning mist, which masked the true identity of the coastline 1 mile opposite. I set a course in an easterly direction and followed the buoys marking the channel.  After half an hour I checked the GPS bearing with a point on the chart which was at the head of the opening leading south towards Picton.  I couldn’t reconcile the chart reading with the GPS reading, and the depth of water seemed to be getting shallower ? In the mist about 200 yards ahead we could see a small boat. I proceeded with caution and found a guy sat in his boat in the middle of the channel fishing.  I asked if the bend in the coastline that revealed itself when we got to him, was the way down to Picton. “No, this is the channel up to Napanee ( dead end in terms of a waterway) you should have come straight out of the Marina and headed due south”  What I hadn’t realised with focusing on entering the harbour the previous evening was that we had already reached the turning south by the marina, and had just not seen it in the early morning mist.  I was amused by that little experience.  I was almost like a story from someone’s dream of a guy lost and finding that people turned up at just the right moment to offer advice as to were you should be…. and how did he knew that we had come out of the marina ?  Then I remembered the group of local fishermen who had set off from the marina about an hour before whilst we were still having breakfast.  From then onwards I paid even more attention to the GPS readings and the Lat. and Long on the Chart as we were in relatively narrow waterways on a small scale chart, that lacked detailed information.  We eventually passed Picton and sailed on to the new larger scale charts of the approaches to Kingston where we arrived with the help of a favourable following wind at around 5pm.

Kingston was a busy place with powerboats churning the water all day.  Boats were arriving from the Rideau waterway system, some from the Eire canal entrance across Lake Ontario at Oswego and others from the 1000 Island area between Kingston and Montreal.  We spent an enjoyable evening and treated ourselves to eating out in the town.  The following morning I put the mast hinge that I had designed to the test, on a not too calm waterfront.  Everything went according to plan, with lots of curious and interested looks from Power boaters whose offers of help were politely refused. I wanted to prove that I could manage on my own.  Well I did, but it took me 3 hours to get all the wires disconnected, and wrapped away, the mast, the mast down, lifted forward and stowed between the bow rail and the “patent” roller type support I had designed for the stern.


We spent the remainder of a very hot day walking around Kingston and found our way to a museum about the history of the Great Lakes development as transportation system. We got back in time to hear an excellent concert on the lawns by the harbour front from the Kingston Scottish Bagpipe band.  Most of the restaurants were full that evening and we finished up sitting in a pavement situation outside a restaurant.  The meal started off OK but then the temperature dropped dramatically and the wind got up. We beat a hasty path for the boat and settled in for the night.

The Rideau Waterway
We knew from reading the tourist guide that the road lifting bridge that allowed access to the Start of the Rideau Waterway lifted on the hour.  We scrambled to get there and arrived 1 minute after 9 am.  The bridge failed to rise despite me sounding the required blasts on an air horn.  After waiting what seemed like an eternity, I spied the bridge operator walking down the side of the bridge. “You can get under the approach bridge on the other side of the island” Sure enough we got through with out any trouble.  Why didn’t the guidebook tell us about that route? Brenda’s original concept of the Rideau Canal was based on the English canals built for the industrial narrow boats of the 19th century.  We were both surprised when we got the charts to find that the “canal” was in fact a series of lakes and rivers that had been linked to form a commercial route for trade between Ottawa and Kingston.  Some of the lakes were a mile across and several miles long. In 1826 Colonel John By of Royal Engineers was sent out from London to design and build the water way system. It was built in the aftermath of the 1812 war to provide a safe supply route, which avoided passage near American territory.

The waterway is 120 miles long with 45 locks. 14 locks up from Kingston rising a total of 50 metres to Newboro and 31 locks down lowering boats a total of 83 metres to the Ottawa River. The whole system was surveyed, designed and built in an astonishingly short period, being completed by 1832 with the labour of thousands of Irish immigrants and French Canadians who worked in very rough bush and rocky swamp conditions, which were infected by malaria mosquitoes.  John By was called back to London after he had completed the system where he was tried on allegations of misappropriation of funds.  He was acquitted and found not guilty on all counts, but it ruined his career in the Army.

We passed through some beautiful countryside and enjoyed brilliant sunshine throughout our journey through the Rideau, which lasted approximately 6 days. We learned that because I was later passing through the Richelieu river canal system the cheapest fee payment method, was to buy a seasons ticket for about 180 Canadian Dollars (£90 ?) which would have given us access to all the canals and water ways in the Trent-Severn system, (as opposed to the Severn-Trent waterway in the UK) which would have given access into Lake Superior.

We found ourselves in the first lock with Paul and Jo from Portsmouth England who were travelling in their large Prout Catamaran. Paul had retired a couple of years ago from British Airways where he was an airline pilot.  His wife Jo had also worked for the airline as a stewardess. They were travelling with their friends Bob and Hilda from Florida who were on their 38(?) foot cutter.  We met them from time to time on our way through the waterway.

On our second day on the waterway we needed to get food supplies in and on the strength of instructions from a local lady at one of the locks we aimed for Portland, where we had our main mishap.  The approaches to Portland were shown on an enlarged insert on the chart.  The change of scale caused us to misjudge the relative positions of the town harbour and a series of commercial buildings nearby. We aimed for the commercial building only to find that we had aimed for a ledge 4 feet under the water. The boat came to a sudden halt accompanied by a subdued grating sound from the keel.  Fortunately I had kept a long plank of 6 x 2 timber on the deck from when I lowered the mast before the hinge was constructed. I untied this and tied it to a long line in case I lost it over side.  Fortunately the water was very clear and I was able to see the rock ledge that we had hit.  I put the outboard motor into reverse with the tiller fixed in line with the keel and gave the rock a good push.  Success, the boat backed off immediately, and we arrived in Portland none the worse for the experience.  It was there that we met a very pleasant man in his mid eighties, who was still acting as the harbour master collecting fees.  After talking to him for some time we soon realised that he was doing the job to help keep his interest in life going.  He had at one time owned most of the harbour front and was well known in the town. I think it was the mayor who said to him a few years back that they couldn’t find anybody to take on the job of harbour master and would he be interested in helping out… and he is still doing it.  “It’s a summertime job you know. I go to Florida now as I can’t stand the frozen winters up here since I had my heart operation ”  He told us several interesting tales of winter time activities; cutting holes through the ice on the lake for fishing and driving a 2 ton fuel truck out over the ice to the smaller islands.

We met a variety of boats on the journey including some very high-speed two person water scooters powered by 100 hp water pump jets. These seemed capable of speeds in excess of 40 miles an hour. There were also double decker holiday caravan type constructions floating on two large pontoons. These were available on hire and all seemed to be filled to capacity with between 10 and 12 people, many of whom demonstrated little navigational ability.  One of them came out of a lock between 6 boats waiting to enter. The guy was heading straight for 3 of them. People started shouting warnings to him. This produced a panic reaction in which he went on to full throttle and turned even nearer to the boats.  I think he had meant to go into reverse to back off.  Too late. The fenders were already rubbing against the boats and he lost steering control. Fortunately there were sufficient people on each boat to fend the vessel off as it careered by, saving thousands of potential damage.

Our journey to Smiths Falls was through very shallow twisting channels passing through swampy areas. We managed to touch bottom a couple of times (4 feet draft) despite being in the buoyed channel. At one point the three bladed propeller on the side of the keel which drove the speedo cable of the mileometer in the cockpit,  got fouled up with weed and stopped the unit working.  Before I put the boat in the water in Lake Eire, I had spent a whole day forming a new blade on the propeller in fibreglass and getting the clock to work. I wanted to record the mileage for the whole journey, so decided to clear the weed off.  Slipping into the water feet first up to my armpits I was just able to reach down to the propeller with my feet and clear the weeds away.

At the end of the following day we reached Smiths Falls and moored alongside Paul and Jo and Bob and Hilda, who had arrived earlier in the day.

We were surprised and pleased to see alongside the canal in the middle of Smiths Falls, that a group of teenage boys and girls from the Officer Training Corps attached to Belfast University in Northern Ireland were working on a project associated with the drugs awareness programme in town.  They were busy repainting an original Royal Canadian Air Force World War II fighter plane, which was mounted as a memorial, and were also digging out an area alongside that was to be a children’s playground.  I had a short chat with some of the them and their army sergeant leader who told me that the following week they would be joined by groups from other UK university based OTC’s, to take part in a canoe race from one end of the Rideau waterway to the other.  Many years ago I spent some time as a swimmer canoeist in the Royal Marines and I said that I thought that was a very tough assignment for 17 year olds.  It was then explained that each OTC would enter a team of 10 of boys and girls who would paddle their team canoe as one relay team non-stop from one end to the other.  Who said the youngsters of to-day lack drive and determination?  At the end of the race, prizes would be awarded at Smiths Falls; the completed recreation area would be formally handed over to the towns people of Smiths Falls.  The event would include a commemorative fly past by Royal Canadian Air Force planes.

I felt the need to let people know that we were British and had decided to fly the only flag I had which was the Union flag alongside the Canadian flag which had been given to us by Hans and Eva.  Paul very politely and kindly explained that strictly I couldn’t be allowed to fly the Union flag unless I had the Queen on board, and even if she was, it should be mounted on a Jack Staff at the bow of the boat.  (Hence the term Union Jack) He didn’t even bother to look to see if the Queen was on board our boat, but kindly offered to give me his old reserve “Red Duster” as substitute.  Thanks Paul that flag generated several curious enquiries and enjoyable conversations with American boaters during the remainder of the journey. The majority of Americans mistook us for Canadians and were most surprised to find that a Brit. had got a boat in American waters…

We all had a good meal together that evening in a local Chinese buffet where we ate as much as we wanted for a fixed price.

We had originally passed Paul and Jo in their Catamaran near Kingston whilst they were completing a repair to a sheered part of their steering gear, with the help of a local marine engineering company in Kingston. A linkage bar measuring one and a half inches wide had a one inch diameter hole drilled through it for a pivot, leaving a only a quarter of an inch of material either side of the pivot hole…. who would design something like that, to withstand a pounding from the sea ?!  Whilst completing the repair to the steering mechanism, Paul had inspected the gear transmission oil level and was concerned to find small bits of metal in the oil.  By the time he had reached Smiths Falls he decided that the gears and bearings would have to be dismantled and inspected with a view to cleaning and replacement before he completed his journey.  He had hoped to get a lift out in Montreal, and ask friends who were due to join him from England to bring the appropriate parts with them for fitting.  We all learned after Paul had spoken to his friends in London that British Airways was in dispute with staff over a change in catering arrangements. Travel agents were transferring holiday bookings to alternative airlines to avoid disappointment for their customers.  His friends had tried over 30 travel agents, none of whom could secure return flights to Canada in the August period.  We subsequently heard from you Jo, when we returned home that a drive shaft bearing had sheared and you had it repaired in Montreal.

We left Paul and Bob who were going to spend more time in Smiths Falls and “sped” on our way at 5 knots, towards Ottawa.  We stopped at Merrickville, which was the garrison town, and administration centre set up by John By when the waterway was constructed.  It still has several original stone blockhouse type buildings which now serve as museum display centres depicting the period of construction.

Throughout the whole of our journey along the Rideau waterway, we were met by smartly uniformed lock keepers who were most pleasant and helpful in minimising what could have been very traumatic experiences when passing through each lock alongside a host of other travellers and the usual host of holiday-makers. At Jones Falls the French speaking lock keeper even entertained us all by singing a French song to his own accompaniment on an accordion as we slowly rose up out of the depths of the lock basin. He received a spontaneous round of applause from the boaters and onlookers.  I was grateful for the way in which they organised our passage through sections. When the locks were within a mile or two of each other, they would ask us all whether we were intending to travel directly to the next lock. They always phoned to the next lock keeper to give him numbers in the current group passing through.  The power boaters always sped away from us after a lock was opened often exceeding the speed limit, only to find that the next lock keeper would keep his lock gate open for us to arrive at our sedately speed of 6 knots. Shades of the hare and the tortoise!

As we approached Ottawa the countryside became less dramatic in its beauty. The last days travel took us past many modern and spacious houses with manicured lawns sweeping down to the waterside, most of which had a power boat moored adjacent to the property and the occasional seaplane.  As English folk we did notice the absence of colour that we normal expect to see in an English garden.  Either there is no interest in cultivating  borders of flowering plants and shrubs, or such plants would not survive the severe winters of the region. Most people had the Canadian flag flying on their property. You will rarely find the English flag flying from gardens in the UK.

Along the immediate approaches to Ottawa we were accompanied by holidaymakers taking rides in 60-seater type launches, all of who seemed intent on waving to us as they passed by.  The mooring facilities were sited very conveniently in the middle of Ottawa. We took the opportunity of traversing down the 8 lock staircase into the Ottawa River opposite the Canadian House of Parliament prior to visiting the many attractions of Canada’s Capital City.  I manage to open my spectacle case upside down whilst stepping back onto the boat from the lock and out fell my reading glasses straight through a 3 inches gap into 12 feet of water.  I had two strong magnets… perhaps I could get them out? Well as my reserve pair proved to be non-magnetic, we spent the afternoon sightseeing around the Ottawa.  Neal, you will be interested to know that I still have the soft cloth insert…  and I’m saving up to replace the battered case!

On the morning before we set off down the Ottawa River I wanted to buy some replacement spark plugs for the outboard engine as I was down to my last pair of unused ones.  I didn’t want to get stuck in the middle of the flowing Ottawa with an outboard that refused to start because all my plugs were sooted up.  The chances of getting a marine type of spark plug in a large city were pretty slim and as luck would have it that this particular day was the first time they had decided to have a public holiday named after Col. John By (over two hundred years after he built the waterway).  Despite lots of useful suggestions from the lock keepers in Ottawa, which sent me cycling all around the city, getting caught up in the bagpipe band parade that was making a ceremonial march to the Parliament House; all the shops and stores were closed.  I gave up the search and hoped that our existing plugs that I had cleaned would last a little longer. Needless to say we could have spent more time in Ottawa, but this was our second visit there and Brenda’s return flight date from Montreal made us move on, on the second day.

The Ottawa River
Navigation from Cleveland to the end of the Rideau waterway had been quite positive in that we had been able to identify all the buoys shown on our charts that we chose to use as markers along our voyage.  Travelling down the Ottawa river soon made us realise that the Canadian authorities don’t maintain all the buoys shown on the charts issued by the Canadian Hydrographic Service.  There was one particular section that I recall when we wanted to enter Hudson for a night’s mooring.  The approach showed a stone tower about a mile up stream on the opposite side of the river to Hudson.  This we couldn’t fail to miss, but our chart showed that between the tower and a natural approach line to Hudson on the opposite bank, there was an underwater mound covered by only 3 feet of water, marked by a buoy.  Despite careful searching in good light, we couldn’t find this buoy.  I made good use of my GPS at this point and made absolutely sure that we had passed the underwater mound before crossing towards the harbour at Hudson.

We entered the local yacht club harbour and asked if we could stay the night, only to be greeted by an Essex man who had lived in Canada since the 50’s. We were made to feel very welcome and spent a pleasant evening sheltered from the turbulence of the river.  He confirmed that several buoys in this immediate area had been removed by the navigation authorities and marked our charts accordingly.

The following day found us approaching the Carrillon lock alongside the hydroelectric power station. This single lock lowered us 67 feet down to the lower section of the Ottawa River on the lower side of the power station turbines.  It is the second biggest lock fall in the world.  Our experience to date from passing through the Rideau locks was to hold a loop of our bow and stern ropes around a vertical plastic covered hawser and slide them up or down the 6 to 10 feet change in the height of water in the lock.  The idea of doing this for a drop of 67 feet whilst coping with any movement of the boat caused by the swirl of water leaving the lock was daunting.  In the event the passage through was made very easy for us in that we were able to tie up to a floating platform inside the lock which moved up and down with the water in a very sedate manner.

We eventually arrived at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue two days before Brenda was due to fly home. (Sigh of relief!)  We hired a car for a couple of days and spent a day in Montreal sightseeing, bought a spare pair of reading glasses for $20 (Canadian) (can you beat that price Neal?) and listening to the jazz bands playing around the city centre as part of an annual concert.  I eventually tracked down the navigation publications stockists store in the old dock area of Montreal and bought charts for the St Lawrence Seaway for the next days journey I was to make on my own. The man working there was a Scot who had originally come over to open this publication store as a branch of Kelvin Hughes of London. The company was bought by Smiths Industries is now separate from the London company.  He was pleased to talk to some British folk. I asked if he would like to live back in the UK. He said he was torn in that he missed ‘the old country”, but now had children who were married, one to girl whose family had Scottish connections and the other to girl from a family originating from another European country.  They had all been born and grown up in Canada, so he felt he couldn’t return to live back in Scotland, but enjoyed returning for visits to his relatives. We visited several of the many historic attractions, including the old harbour which had a visiting Italian battleship moored alongside.

On the morning of Brenda’s departure we visited an old stone building alongside the Lachine canal which was the original trading post building for the Montreal fur Trading company. This building had a most interesting exhibition which showed how the original trading and hunting routes right across Canada all lead back to Montreal, where the fur were dispatched to Europe to meet the very attractive market for ladies clothing during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It also showed the trapping routes of hunters working for the Hudson Bay Company.  Declining trade and the reduction in the number of beavers etc being trapped, lead to the eventual amalgamation of the two companies.

We travelled to Mirabel Airport and Brenda left on her Flight back to London.

That evening I studied the newly acquired Charts for the St Lawrence Seaway passed the La Chine Rapids to Montreal Harbour and on to the mouth of the Richelieu River which flows from Lake Champlain in Vermont.

The Saint Lawrence Seaway
I was very much aware that the river current would be a factor to consider in this stage of the journey.  The route I was to take passed through the commercial canal that by-passed the Lachine Rapids and re-entered the St Lawrence river half a mile down stream from Montreal Harbour. The current flowing passed the harbour was shown as 5 knots. Too fast for me to contemplate a journey up stream to try and enter the harbour. I would have to find an alternative, preferably on the right-hand bank of the river downstream from Montreal, but where?  Perhaps I can ask other boaters or the lock keepers on the way through.  I saw a note on the chart adjacent to the seaway above Montreal that said see note 3 regarding speeds.  Note 3 was at the foot of the chart I read quickly only to find that it was warning regarding the speed (of the current?). It said that between one particular buoy and another buoy the speed was 12 knots and from the second buoy to the entrance of the canal the speed was 5 knots. I could only achieve 6 knots and I was most concerned that if I missed the turning for the canal entrance I hadn’t got a second chance of getting back up stream.  Why hadn’t any of the people I spoke to mentioned this potential danger?  I was very tired and decided to turn in and worry think more about it to-morrow.  I woke up early at around 5.30am took a second look at the chart in day light and re-read the notice which actually said that the maximum speed of boats between the said buoys were 12 and 5 knots respectively.. I breathed a sigh of relief!

Back to navigating on my own.  I had spent an hour the previous evening entering some 20 odd waypoints into my GPS to help with direction, speed and progress throughout the day.

I left Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue around 8 am and made a cautious but safe approach to a narrow channel formed out of two artificial revetment walls built up to just above water level that gave a clear passage way through a shallow section, to the main Seaway.  Once I joined the Seaway I was soon travelling at speed in the current.  The speedometer on the boat showed the speed through the water to be the usual 6.5 knots, whilst the GPS recorded speed over the ground as something in excess of 10 knots.  I took the turning into the channel leading to the canal and was soon at the receiving bay where several boats were moored awaiting the green light that indicated the lock was open.  I approached the mooring pontoon under power with a following wind. Stopping was going to be tricky.  In the event the owners of a larger yacht who had overtaken me half an hour before were already tied up and they came to help, taking ropes whilst I concentrated on reversing the outboard to stop the boat just at the right time.  You always have to concentrate more in these moments. If you stop the boat too early you lose way, can’t steer the boat and run the risk of drifting to where you don’t want to go. If you leave it too late you finish up with collisions and repair bills to pay.

I asked my helpers if they knew where I could moor for the night. I had asked the right person and found that I had met Jacques and Monique, who were on the last day of their return journey from a 4 week sailing holiday. Jacques was the commodore of the Montreal yacht club and offered a berth at his club, which was just downstream from the exit from the canal. He called the club on his mobile phone and booked a berth for me. I was very grateful.  On this occasion I was able to offer some beers to them as we travelled through the canal locks.  Navigating into their club berths was straightforward.  I had a pleasant evening at the club berth and prepared for the journey down the main section of the Seaway to Sorel.

The passage down to Sorel was interesting, with several wharf-side activities around sea going container ships etc. on the Montreal bank.

The Richelieu River
I entered the narrow mouth of the Richelieu to find that the water was rougher than the main seaway.  I was met head on by a four high powered boats racing towards me at between 30 and 40 miles an hour. The wake from these and other power boats proved to a be a real nuisance throughout most of the journey to the Cannbaly basin which is the start of the canalised section of the Richellieu.  Power boaters all seem to be one type of character; arrogant, under 40 years old and have no consideration of others around them. All except you of course Joe !

I eventually arrived late in the evening at the Saint Ours Lock and moored alongside the lock wall after passing up through the lock. I had a pleasant evening talking to a young couple who were starting out from Montreal on a 3 weeks holiday on Lake Champlain.  They also had a hinged mast, the owner was very interested in my roller type mast support at the stern and went on his way determined to make one himself for the next season, which would save him having to lift the whole mast forward after detaching it from the hinge.

During the following day it rained continually all morning. I had to stop for petrol and was searching for a marina shown to be on the right bank.  I came across a marina on the left bank and tied alongside the fuel jetty. There was only one pump in sight for Diesel fuel.  At that moment a woman came along the 50 yards long jetty and said that they didn’t have any gas as the Oil Company had taken the pump away.  I only had 2 gallons left (enough for 2 hours plus) and was loathed to move any further as marinas and landing points were few and far between on this river. I explained that I couldn’t go any further because I had insufficient fuel.  We were both getting soaked through by the very heavy rain. The woman offered to take me to a gas station in her car.  I took 3 cans (5 gallons capacity) and we drove 3 miles to a nearby gas station. She explained that her husband (a German) had sold the marina through a mortgage arrangement to another man a year ago. This man had ceased paying the mortgage and hadn’t paid his fuel bill for 2 months, hence the removal of the pump. They had returned from a retirement sailing trip in the Caribbean to re-possess the Marina and hoped to re-sell it as soon as possible.   I had the impression their chances weren’t too high as the season was drawing to an end and they thought the local economy was weak.   I got back to the boat thoroughly soaked.  It was still raining hard. My hair was dripping water on to my glasses making it almost impossible to read the chart. Condensation had got into my binoculars blurring my vision of the buoying arrangements for a mid river island ahead which carried a rail bridge. The auto helm got condensation under the liquid crystal display lens and eventually packed up. This was a major inconvenience in that I couldn’t do anything that involved letting go of the tiller.  The next 15 minutes were rather dramatic as I couldn’t see or use my navigation aids effectively. I eventually found that I could counteract the side thrust effect of the outboard prop on the boat by swinging the motor slightly out of line with the keel.  This gave me periods of about one or two minutes when I could dive into the cabin for food and drink without the boat aiming towards one of the river banks. I took the unit apart (well what good is a guarantee when your in the middle of nowhere with the nearest agent about 1000 miles away and you need it fixing NOW.)  The lens had not been sealed properly in the casing, which allowed water to leak in and wet the LCD unit which no doubt shorted the whole circuit.  I sealed the lens with bathroom sealant and let the warm sun of the next day thoroughly dry out the LCD before assembling it again.  It worked again! A big blessing. The remainder of the trip along the Richelieu was uneventful.

Lake Champalin
I arrived at the US border marina at Rouses Point on Lake Champlain.   I moored alongside just before it started to rain and rain and RAIN at 45 degrees. The second day of really bad weather I had experienced in 10 weeks of sailing.  I contacted Bob and his wife Sue who lived about one and half-hours away to let them know I was in Vermont.  The weather was so uncertain I didn’t know whether to take up his offer to come and collect me or get the mast raised ready for sailing on the lake. The following morning it was raining very heavily with a southerly wind blowing in the opposite direction to what I needed to travel to Burlington. I called Bob and he kindly collected me and I enjoyed the rest of that day and night with his family. The following morning was bright and sunny with a northerly wind blowing.  Just what I wanted.  Bob and I set out for the yacht and he volunteered to stay and help me raise the mast, which we achieved by 1pm.  Bob left me at that point so that he could attend an education in-service training course.

It was 3pm by the time I had finally rigged the boat out with both sails attached.  Too late to make any significant progress that day.

The following morning I set out at 8.15am for Burlington some 40 miles distance.  The weather was cloudy but dry. The wind was against me and the waves between 2 and 3 feet high. There were buoyed channels, too many islands and rocky reefs in this northern section of the lake to allow any significant tacking so I had yet another non sailing day and motored down to Burlington ploughing into the waves for most of the way and arrived around 5.30pm.  I spent some time chatting to a retired New York Police detective and his wife who was making his first long trip up from Tarrytown in a motor launch.  He had just bought the boat complete with a GPS system which he wasn’t quite sure how to use….  Once a teacher always a teacher.  It wasn’t long before I was trying to show him the intricacies of Lat. and Long., Waypoints and planned routes.

The next day was a Saturday; the weather was fine with a good breeze blowing. As Bob was keen to go sailing, I called him as arranged and he and Sue came down to Burlington, arriving around 10.30am.  We set off in good style towards the centre of the lake with a southerly wind blowing and lots of other yachts out sailing.  Bob had taken the helm and was obviously enjoying the surge of power coming from the sails…….. and then we lost the wind, out in the middle of the lake!  That was the end of the days sailing.  Back to the motor and into Burlington, where fortunately Bob and Sue had their bicycles.  We enjoyed the rest of the day cycling along the lakeside cycle path and swimming in the lake.

Bob and Sue left that evening around 8pm. At 9 PM there was the most violent thunder and lightening storm and high wind I have experienced for some years. The marina people were running around all the boat moorings to check that all boats were really secure. The rain was coming down so fast that a two-inch high channel on the deck filled with water and overflowed into the cabin because the water couldn’t run out of the open ends quickly enough.  Fortunately the rain eased off after 20 minutes.

Thanks for your hospitality Bob and Sue I enclose a photograph, taken of you sat in the boat at Burlington.

The following morning I prepared to travel south down the lake thinking I would make about a 30-mile passage.

First I needed fuel. Whilst I was paying for fuel with my credit card the owner asked me what the initial A stood for. “Alan”. “Really” he said, starting to look excited. “Hey Alan, come over and meet your English name sake” A guy aged about 35 came over and I had a chat with him. He is one of a family group of Paul’s who live in the Burlington area.  His great grandfather moved to Burlington about 1900 from Philadelphia.  Apparently he was an entrepreneurial designer who had started up several successful manufacturing businesses in the area during the 1930’s .  Alan Paul lives just out of Burlington on an old farm where he has 7 wooden boats which are either awaiting or are already in the course of renovation.

I finally set sail with a 30-mph southerly wind behind me and waves between 3 and 4 feet high.  I set the jib and mainsail out “wing on wing” and had the most exciting sail of the journey. The speedometer was reading 8 knots ! for long periods.  We had proved that it was reading slow at speeds up to 5 knots.  This was amazing.  I had the constant threat that the 3 feet high waves of water might enter rear of the cockpit through the lower section of the outboard mounting, but they never actually did.

I left Burlington at around 10.45am and arrived at Crown Point at the southern end of the lake around having travelled approximately 40 miles in 5 hours. (8 Knots?).

Unfortunately I had to take the mast down again the next morning in preparation for the next stage of the journey through the Champlain canal and the upper reaches of the Hudson River to a point below Albany.

I had an early morning start before the heat of the day came up, in which I changed the gear drive shaft oil.  The maintenance instructions said change once a season or after 100 hours of use. I was well over that limit by now, but I was pleased to see that there was no deposit in the oil and the magnetic drain plug had no whiskers of metal attached to it.

I was in the middle of coiling wires and tying ropes around the mast, when a lady bid me good morning and said, ” I hear you’re English” she wanted to chat forever and I politely excused myself to get on with work. “Oh my husband was teacher I’m sure he would like to talk to you later”  The husband, who was restoring his boat, did come over and offered to lend a hand, which I declined, because I hate to have people who have offered to help standing around with me unable to offer any real task for them.  I agreed to chat with him when I had tied everything away.  He was a retired Industrial Arts teacher from Massachusetts.  He showed me where there were several marinas and safe anchorages along the upper reaches of the Hudson. I had a sandwich and a Coke with them and prepared to leave.

I set off at 2pm with the mast and shrouds stowed away and the intention of getting as far as possible that evening towards the first lock of the Champlain canal leading to the Hudson river. At 7.30pm I moored at marina in a valley section and made myself a meal. Adjacent to me were a couple who had bought a 15 berth double decked cruise boat, on which they offered 6 day return cruises from Albany, either up to Lake Champlain, along the Eire Canal to Oswego or down the Hudson to New York.  This was their 3rd year of operation and they were pleased with how it was going.  There was a railway track on the opposite bank and you could hear the train coming throughout the night from miles away as they sounded their whistles en-route.  This is the sound of the American mid west.

The Champlain Canal
I set off the next morning at 7am through an early morning mist and made it to the first lock of the Champlain canal. I paid for a two-day passage and motored through unexciting country rarely seeing anyone except for two or three boats through out the whole day.  At the end of two days I arrived at Fort Edward where I joined the canalised section of the Hudson River.  The mooring at Fort Edward was a pleasant spot opposite a grassed area of town behind some buildings along the high Street.  I was preparing a meal and heard the distant sound of a lone set of bagpipes. It reminded me of similar experience outside Oban several years ago.  Soon there was a complete bagpipe band with side and big bass drum and a rehearsal in full swing about 50 yards away from the boat.  Very pleasant whilst eating my meal.  I talked to another boater who knew the New York section of the Hudson and he showed me where there is a marina right in the City centre opposite the Twin Trade buildings.

The Hudson River
I finally got four new spark plugs, which would be in reserve for the journey along the New Jersey Atlantic coast.

I made it to Waterford the next day and passed through the Federal Lock before mooring for the evening at a free berth provided by the town council. The Hudson is tidal below this point.  It was planned that I call Mike when I arrived near to him. I eventually contacted him late on the evening I arrived and he arranged to pick me up from where ever I was going to be the following evening, probably somewhere down stream of the last low bridge that prevented me from raising the mast again.

The following morning was very wet and I didn’t relish the idea of travelling down stream to find perhaps an expensive berth, where I would not raise the mast if it were still raining.  I stayed put at the free mooring, shopped for food and had my first haircut for 9 weeks.  It was possible to remove the top washboard at the entrance to the cabin without undoing the padlock.  The hasp and staple was sited across the top corner of the entrance and not very satisfactory.  I decide to fix it centrally to the hatch cover and fix the lifting hatch cover with two bolts into the deck combing. A more secure arrangement, but if people are really intent on entering a boat they will break what ever is necessary to get in. Whilst I was working on the padlock fixing I was suddenly aware of someone shouting “hello”.  It was the couple with the double decked hire cruise boat, I had been with 3 days previously.  They had finished their own private holiday and were heading into the Eire Canal lock, which also joins the Hudson at Waterford.  They were taking a small group on a 4-day cruise. There was no time to talk. The lock gate had just opened for them to enter the Eire canal.

Mike came to collect me and insisted that I stay the night with his family.  I hadn’t left the boat over night before and the berth was isolated and appeared to be a favourite play area for the local youngsters who had nothing else to do. There was no other boat moored there at the time I was leaving.  I managed to use the substantial bicycle chain that came with the $12 bicycle to secure the boat to the pontoon and the bicycle to the boat.  If the local youth decide to untie the mooring ropes, the boat wouldn’t float away.

It was good talking to Mike and hearing about his new 5-year education project.  I met his family and soon realise how much he was enjoying his 3-year-old boy Chi (?)  Chi came down from a sleep with his Mum just as I arrived and was slightly shy and wouldn’t speak to me at first. Ten minutes later he had recovered and Chi and I had lots of conversations about his toys and I was asked questions to explain the why and the what of most of what I said and did.  He is obviously a bright and sensitive little guy.  It was a delight to see that the family was so happy with their new family member.  Thanks to you Mike and your family for the hospitality. I greatly enjoyed my overnight stay.

The next day was fine and sunny so I travelled down stream to the Albany Yacht Club arriving around 2pm.  I spent the afternoon erecting the mast. Before raising the mast I was determined to stop the noise from the mast. The VHF radio aerial included two sections, which were joined two-thirds the way down the inside of the mast by relatively large screwed fittings.  Every time the boat rocked this fitting rattled like a bell clapper inside the mast.  I started to pull the aerial out of the mast only to find that the lower section was stuffed with dried grass and twigs.  I reckoned that during one winter lay up sometime the mast had been home to a squirrel as the stuffing’s include a significant number of nuts !  I retrieved about three shopping bags full of twigs and straw from the mast.  I tried an idea given to me by Hans and Eva of tying electrical tie wraps at intervals along the length of the aerial before threading it back.  The idea being that the loose ends of the tie wrap would stop the aerial from slapping the inside of the mast. I also wrapped a large piece of sponge around the screwed joint to soften its contact with the mast. The sponge worked but the only tie wraps I could buy were so small as to be ineffective.

It was obvious that from now onwards progress was going to depend on which way the tide was flowing at any one time of the day. The trick being to time my journey to go with the ebb tide.  I secured a copy of the monthly issue of Boating on the Hudson which gave the daily high and low tide times for 10 significant places along the Hudson from Battery Park in New York city to Albany about 100 mile upstream.  The marina attendant had changed the days on his copy. The publication had the days and dates one day out of sync.  He reckoned that the days of the week were wrong and that the dates were correct. It made a difference in the tide times of an hour each day.

I set out at around 9am the following morning aiming for the Town of Hudson some 40 miles down river.  High tide at Hudson according to the chart duly amended for the day error was at 9pm.  I reckoned that I could be at Hudson by 6pm so that I would beat most of the current flow upstream.

I was surprised to find that even the river was 60 feet deep in parts even this far away from the Atlantic. All went well until about 4pm when it started to rain heavily. The tide had turned an hour previously and seemed to be flowing against me much more strongly than I had expected.  I remember passing through a narrow section of the river when I still had 12 miles to go.  The speed of the tidal flow was strong through this section that my GPS gave a speed over the ground of only 3 Miles per hour. The speedometer still showed 6.5 hours.  The outboard struggled against a strong current all the way to Hudson. The last 12 miles had taken 3 hours.  I tied up and talked to the members of the Hudson power and boating club (not many yacht owners on this stretch of the river.. no wonder with these sort of currents) I had been told to amend the tide table in the opposite way to what it should have been.  I was over an hour late with my estimation of high tide.  I took advantage of the tide clock in the club house and worked out that high tide at Hudson was 8am the following morning. How convenient. I could get up at a reasonable hour and go down with the tide.  These clocks tell the time of day and have an additional disc, which rotates, around the periphery of the normal clock face. The disc is divided off into sectors showing High tide, half ebb, Low Tide, half flow, etc and it rotates in sync with the tidal change. Each high Tide is six and a quarter hours after the previous one. On a twelve-hour clock the disc will rotate one complete turn in 12 and a half hours.

I was determined not to be caught out again the next morning and set off half an hour before high tide and made good progress that day in clear sunny weather, through interesting hilly scenery. I passed through Saugerties and the narrow twisting gorge by the military training school at West Point. As I approached the twisting gorge at West Point I moved from the inside of the bend towards the centre of the river to take a few photographs of the Buildings. A powerboat was approaching from down stream and I gave the customary wave. I was then aware that they were all waving and gesticulating to me to come nearer to the inside of the bend. I was in 36 feet of water at the time. Perhaps they thought that I was intent on motoring to the outside of the bend in the river where the current would have been faster and possibly swirling. The chart showed that it was shallower on that side. I dutifully altered course and passed by with out any problems.  On passing Hyde Park I caught sight of Roosevelt’s House and the Vanderbilt House which I had visited on a previous holiday.  There were rail tracks on both sides of the river for many miles. I was impressed by the length of the freight trains; some pulled by four traction units appeared to be over a mile long.

I moored alongside a pontoon at the riverside marina just upstream from Poughkeepsie.  It was a Sunday and the river was very busy with high-powered boats speeding up, raising big wakes.  This caused considerable rocking to boats tied at the marina. The marina operator was continually shouting across to boats to keep their speed down… all to no avail.  Surging waves continued to rock my boat until a good two hours after the river traffic subsided for the night.  I was obviously moving nearer to New York with New York prices… $35(?£23) for one night’s mooring.  I had been paying $25 Canadian (?£11 ) on Lake Ontario.

The waves subsided by 10.30pm and the river was glassy calm the following morning when I started at 6.45am for Tarrytown and the Tapenzee Bridge.  This part of the journey was relatively straightforward and I made good progress with the ebb tide.  I was coming through Haverstraw Bay, where the river must be about 3 to 4 miles wide,  when I was aware of a motor launch coming up behind me and appeared to be making straight for me. Eventually the people on board started calling out and waving their arms and smiling. It was a couple of moments before I realised it was the ex New York Police detective and his wife who I had last seen over a week ago and 200 miles away in Burlington on Lake Champlain. They were on the last day of their trip, returning to Nyak at the opposite end of the Tapenzee Bridge from Tarrytown. We had a brief conversation mid river in which they told me they had had a good first trip in their boat and asked if I was still on schedule to catch my plane back to England. They wished me well and slowly pulled away down river.

I was surprised to find I was passing Sing Sing Prison situated on the riverbank, just north of Tarrytown. I had always thought it was an island location similar to Alcatraz.  I was also aware that my progress was slowing down as the tide had turned and was starting to flow against me. I could see the Tappenzee Bridge for about 3 hours before I actually got within 100 yards of it to turn into the Tarrytown marina.  This was a smart marina with good security … and it cost $35 night! Well “you only come this once”

I did some shopping and called Marshal and Lucy on Long Island and arranged that they came up to Tarrytown for a day on the boat.  That evening I asked a guy in a tugboat moored in the marina about tide times for the next morning.

He was Eddie Layton who had been the Hammond Organ professional concert player for over 24 years. He had toured worldwide and knew most of the cities in England.  He had made lots of record albums and was currently the resident organist for the New York Yankees.  His riverboat tug was one he had designed himself with help from a marine architect 22 years ago. He was proud of the exact replica features he had incorporated into what was a scaled down river tug. “This is where I relax”  He was also smoking like a chimney and wheezing like an old steam engine.

Marshall and Lucy arrived in good time and we had a good sunny day motoring down to the George Washington Bridge and back with the tide.  Lucy I enclose a photo of you eating the strawberries and cream and wearing the life jacket your daughter insisted that you wear when she heard you were going on the Hudson in a small boat.  We got back to Tarrytown and had a good meal at a nearby restaurant before Marshall and Lucy returned Long Island. Thanks for coming, we had a most enjoyable day.

New York City
I had a long journey planned for the morning, through New York harbour and out into New York Lower Harbour and across to Sandy Hook (about 40 miles), in readiness for a journey the following day out into the Atlantic.  People had warned me that it was the Hurricane season and that I could get holed up in a port for several days. I was anxious to keep going every day that I could so that I had some days in reserve to complete the trip “on time” in Delaware.

I left Tarrytown at 5.30am with the tide ebbing in my favour.  The river was glassy calm and I was the only vessel on the river for 3 hours until I met a tug coming in the opposite direction pushing six empty barges all fastened tightly together in one block.  I passed alongside the approach road into New York at around 7.30am to 8-30am  There was quite a contrast between my boat cruising along in splendid isolation at about 5.5 knots plus the current flow making a total of about 8 knots; and on elevated roads alongside there were long queues of commuter cars going into New York at about the same speed!

I arrived at the marina that I had been told about by the guy I met back in Waterford. He had assured me that I would be able to buy a tide table publication here for the New Jersey coast.  This was to be my reserve overnight stay if I made slow progress, but as it was still only 11.30am I planned to push on for Sandy Hook. I filled up with gas and asked about the tide tables.  The pump attendant didn’t know where I could by any and suggested I spoke to the Marina office.  After a long wait I was told that I would get them at the bait and tackle shop a few yards away.  No Luck…… ” But if you go to the boat building shop next door they will tell you where you can get them.”  I went into the boat building yard where they were laying up 20-foot fibreglass hulls.  I guessed it was lunchtime and knocked on the door and opened it. The room was full of either Taiwanese or Indonesian workers, none of whom could speak English.  I was eventually pointed towards another office across the yard where I waited a good 10 minutes whilst a guy finished his phone conversation in some language other than English. I explained my need and after searching the Yellow pages they passed the phone over to me to talk to a company that was 10 miles away up the Passaic River. Not very helpful. Eventually some local New Jersey men came into the office and I asked if they could help.  “What do you want to bother with a set of tide tables for?”  “Well in England the coastal tide rips can be quite significant and I want to avoid problems if I can ”   “You needn’t worry about tidal current on the New Jersey coast, just stay about half a mile off the shore and you’ll have no trouble. There is a marina right on the tip of Sandy Hook along the beach where all the puffters go to sun bathe! ”  On the strength of that unqualified advice, I gave up my search for tides tables and set out to pass by Manhattan Island and the Statue of Liberty on my way to Sandy Hook.

I had lost a good two hours in my search for a set of tide tables and the tide had turned and was starting to flow in against me.  There was also a good breeze blowing against me from the Atlantic.  I made reasonable progress passed Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty but the boat slowed down dramatically as I approached the Verazano Narrows Bridge. The tide was in full flow.  I moved over to the New Jersey side in the hope that the current would be less as there were several large ocean-going freighters anchored there awaiting high tide before they set off across the Atlantic.  As I got near to them I could see that the flow passed them was just as strong as elsewhere. I seemed to take an age to pass each ship against the current.  I forget the actual time I spent looking up at the underside of the huge Verazano Narrows Bridge. It must have been a good half-hour.  When I eventually got out into the bay the combination of wind, waves and tidal flow slowed me right down with waves braking over the deck. I wished I hadn’t left the bicycle on the deck as it was getting covered with salt water. Too late now I wasn’t going to chance a balancing act to get it down into the cabin with the boat pitching into the waves. The GPS gave speed over the ground at 3 knots.  It was going to take until 9pm to get to Sandy Hook.  I seemed to be passing a TOYS R US factory sign on the Brooklyn side forever.  I limped along for a good hour with many of the freighters who had been anchored in the Lower Bay passing me by as they moved out into the Atlantic.

After three hours I got into a more sheltered section of Sandy Hook Bay and the boat speed went up to 4.5 knots. Progress at last.  I eventually set a bearing directly for Sandy Hook and joined a buoyed channel a quarter of a mile off the shore.  The Marina that had been recommended to me by the Jersey guy turned out to be a US Coast Guard station displaying NO MOORINGS signs. Lets hope the advice on the coastal tides is more accurate!  I changed course for Atlantic Heights, which was further into the bay.  The detour to Sandy Hook cost me about 3/4 of an hour travel time and daylight was starting to dim.

I eventually arrived at Atlantic Heights marina in glassy calm conditions. It seemed hardly possible that 2 miles away I had been struggling in 3 to 4 foot waves only an hour ago. Buoy moorings were much cheaper here than a pontoon mooring… They turned out to very very cheap.  The guy hadn’t come to collect the fee by 9.30am the next morning so I slipped the mooring and left.

Atlantic Coast – New Jersey
I had been undecided whether to take the inland waterway route down through New Jersey. I heard opinions which varied from “it’s possible with a 4 foot draft boat”, to “you’ll have to be careful that you don’t miss the buoys; avoid this area at low water, there lots of fishing pots to avoid, etc. I decided to take a chance on having a period of fine weather and took the “outside” route down the coast.  There are not many ports of call along the coast between Sandy Hook and the entrance of the Delaware River at Cape May.  However the 130 odd miles along the Atlantic coast could be taken in three stages with over night stays at Manasquan (approx 35 miles) and Atlantic City (approx 54 Miles) and Cape May (approx 40 miles)

The weather was damp and the sea and wind calm.  I had an uneventful day motoring down the New Jersey coast to Manasquan passing many people in small fishing boats clustered together in small groups; presumably because they thought the fish were biting in particular spots.  There were several 50 to 60 foot boats which had groups of man who had paid to come out for a days fishing.  There didn’t seem to be much activity on any of them when I passed by.

I arrived at Manesquan around 4.15pm and found the only marina just up stream from a lifting Railway Bridge built out on a wooden viaduct.  The bridge was left in the raised position and lowered only when a train came by.  The raised position was at an angle of 60 degrees.  I had to steer well away from the hinge mechanism to make sure the mast didn’t get caught up on the bridge structure. I experienced the delights of listening to the “bridge opening” siren at regular intervals throughout the night. The marina guy knew he had a monopoly situation…. $45 for one nights mooring !

I tried to contact my old friends Pat and John (sorry Pat, my long-standing friends !) several times during the evening whilst in Manasquan and finally got through to them at 11pm.  “Oh were sorry we missed you ….. we have been out for a meal this evening in a restaurant overlooking the boats at ……..Manasquan, we were probably were looking at your boat! ”

Well, you win some and you lose some.  John and Pat were committed for the next two days and I didn’t fancy staying to have a further $90 extracted from my credit card and reluctantly decided to move on the next day to Atlantic City.
I am sure I’ll see you again Pat and John soon.

The journey to Atlantic City (54 miles) was the longest stretch on this part of the journey, so I set out at around 7am and was surprised to see so many people up so early in the day, standing along the harbour entrance wall, fishing.

The weather was fine with a slight head wind and I made good progress through a fair number of small fishing boats.  At about 2pm the wind freshened, changed direction and the temperature dropped from the high 70’s and it became relatively chilly and a 4-foot swell developed in addition to the 2-foot waves on top of the swell. It also thundered and rained very heavily, so hard that is flattened all the waves.  I put a thick pullover on and sheltered under the plastic binnimi over the cockpit.  I was going parallel to the shore about a mile off.  Quite suddenly I was aware that the Outboard was labouring and vibrating.  I looked over the stern to find that the boat had run into a 250 yards circular patch of cut grass.  The propeller was fouled up.  When this happened in the weed areas of the Rideau, I had put the propeller into reverse and it cleared itself.  The boat was right in the centre of the patch of grass.  If I put it into reverse I thought I would probably get grass wrapped around in the opposite direction as well and get it really fouled up.  I dropped the revs to quarter speed and limped through to the other side of the patch and then cleared the propeller.  I was telling some one about the grass patch just after I had arrived in Atlantic City and he told me of a an extra ordinary rain storm that they had in the area 5 days previously when 11 inches of rain fell in 6 hours !  They were flash floods everywhere with lots of farm crops washed out to sea.

Cape May
I left Atlantic City for the last Atlantic lap to Cape May.  I had a good wind for much of the day and made good time arriving at the entrance to the harbour around 4pm.  I took the sails down a mile before entering the buoyed channel.  Was I glad I had ?  I had arrived on a Saturday and the channel leading into the harbour area at Cape May was crowded with 18 to 20 foot sailing dinghies returning from a bay race and large powerful power boats that ploughed closely between everything at speeds up to 20 Knots, ignoring the NO WAKE signs. My boat was tossed more than at any time on the trip and many of the items on tables and shelves was tossed onto the floor whilst going up this short narrow harbour entrance.  I caught up with a group in a dinghy and asked where I could go to get an overnight berth.  “Follow me”  I was led into the area belonging to the Cape May Yacht Club and told that I could tie up alongside the pontoons where the members of the club were busy rolling sails up and preparing their boats for lifting out of the water.  I hadn’t seen such an arrangement elsewhere.  Each member took their boat to an electric winch where they attached the lifting hook to a central ring at the centre of the boat. The boats were lifted out of the water and placed on individual wheeled cradles. All the boats were hosed down with fresh water before being stored away.  These boats were in immaculate condition an only spent time in the water when they were actually being used.

I was offered a free berth for the night and spent some time, watching the activity in the harbour and waiting until it was clear that my boat could stay in the position I had tied it.  I cycled into town and bought fuel for the next day’s journey. The journey would go via a 4-mile inland canal that cut out the need to travel further south in the Atlantic around a long spur at the mouth of the Delaware estuary. The members at the club were very polite and friendly and offered a variety of advice on when to time the start of a journey up the river in relation to the tide, although it was soon apparent that not many of them had made the trip.

The main problem with travelling up the Delaware estuary is that if you get your timing wrong there are no ports to call at mid way and the only places of refuge suggested was anchoring up the Maurice River or the Cohansey River on the New Jersey side and nothing on the Delaware side. The best advice seemed to be to leave the canal entrance into the Delaware at low tide and take advantage of the flood for as long as possible. I was told that if my speed was around 5 knots, I couldn’t make the whole 50 odd mile journey up to Delaware City all on the flood tide.   The tide will always turn before I got to the other end.  Low tide at Cape May was something like 3am. Not a very convenient time.  Was it best to try for an advantage of some kind in mid journey or towards the Delaware City end?  If I got it wrong and had the majority of the journey at 3 knots, it would take 16 hours to get to Delaware City. The latitude was much further south than the UK and I think it was just possible to get 16 hours of daylight; 4am to 8pm.

I woke early the following morning a called the US Coast Guard on the VHF to ask for tide information.   I had to stand by whilst they looked up the times.  I was given a series of times in rapid succession and not told which was am or pm or which was the high or the low tide.  I called again and got a different set of times!  I called again and asked for the high tide times for Delaware City.  I tried to reconcile the two sets of information for Cape May and for Delaware City with out convincing success.  This all took precious time from an early morning start. It was now 8.45am and I decide to ask the local yacht club members for the tide times for the following morning and start as early as possible.  At about 10 .30am I was talking to the owner of the next yacht who came from the Chesapeake Bay and he strongly advised me to start by 11am that day as I would get the benefit of the tide until mid way up the river, which would be enough to complete the journey. He knew he’d done it before often.

I scrambled to get away as quickly as possible.  I started to have doubts about the journey as soon as I got into the canal.  It had at least a 3 knots current flowing against me due to the tide time differences either side of the spur of land at the estuary.  It was 12 noon by the time I got to the Lewes – Cape May ferry terminal.  I had just had to grab control of the tiller from the auto helm because of some fool power boater who had set up a 3-foot high wake.  When I came to replace the Auto helm I found it was dead. No screen, no response to tiller movement instructions. I was also 1 gallon of fuel short of my full capacity of 11 gallons.

I decided that I wasn’t going. It was too late, not enough reserve fuel, and not with the Auto Helm out of action.  I turned about and steered back to the yacht Club.  En-route I could hear a loose part rattling inside the Auto Helm casing and cursed the power boaters again as one of them had caused the unit to fall on to the fall of the cockpit yesterday.  I opened the casing and found that the main power supply diode had become loose from the printed circuit board.  There was no power getting to the circuit board no wonder it had stopped working. The circuit board was quite modern in design incorporating several mini processor chips and surface mounted components. Fortunately it had a good silk screen-printed mask showing component values.  There was a nice clear symbol for a diode and evidence of a broken solder joint. I borrowed a soldering iron from the Club and drilled out the holes on the board found that the original holes had not been big enough to take the relatively thick wires of the diode. Someone had placed the wires end on to the board and attempted to ‘tack solder it in place.  No wonder it fell off. I quickly soldered the diode back.  One of the club members was enquiring whether I had repaired it OK. I showed him the board and realise I had soldered the component on the BACK of the PCB.  I’m glad my ex students weren’t around to see that. Something for which I often had to correct them.  Eventually I got it all back together and the unit worked a treat for the rest of the journey.

I was talking to another member about travelling up the Estuary. He said he was going early to-morrow morning to get maximum daylight.  I told him of the advice from the other boater.  “Don’t take any notice of him he talks a load of rubbish”  At that moment his wife heard my English accent and poke her head out of the cabin “Have you heard the news?  Princess Diana was killed in a car accident last night being chased by the paparazzi ”  I was surprised that from that time on, almost every American I met said how sorry they were to hear about Princess Diana as soon as they realised that I was British.  One guy explained that for many of the people in this part of the State where nearly all the name places were of British origin and so much of the British culture was embedded in their daily lives that many American people took a close interest in the Royal family and especially in Diana. He wanted to know the whole history of the Windsor’s back to Edward and Mrs Simpson and which family did the Queen Mother and the Duke of Edinburgh come from.  He knew more about Prince Charles and Mrs Parker Bowles than I did.

I was in the middle of repairing my Auto Helm when a guy came along side with a 5 year little girl as his sole crewmember. He asked me to take a rope to tie him alongside and we had chat.  When I told him I was just about to complete my long trip and then think about going back to Nottingham in England. He said “my wife’s Aunt comes from Nottingham, I’d like you to come home and have a meal with us ”  I had met Walter.  Walter lives in Philadelphia, but he brought me to his Cape May house where his family have spent all their summers. I expect his wife was most surprised to find that she had a visitor on the last day of the their holiday before returning back to their home in Philadelphia.  I was made very welcome and spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening when we ate out in Cape May. I hope to keep in touch with you and the family Walter. The invitation for Adrienne still stands.

The Delaware Estuary
I set out the following morning .. Labour Day at 6.45am and made much faster progress along the canal and turned into the Delaware one and half hours ahead of high tide.  I set course for a buoy some 15 miles up river. The river is about 25 miles wide at this point.  I had a good wind behind me; with both sails up and the outboard running it wasn’t long before I lost sight of both banks of the river as I went up the estuary and across Delaware Bay.  It was interesting in this section to see the effects of the current. I set a compass course taken from my GPS and stayed with it for some time. One hour later I compared the course over the ground with that of the boat compass.  They differed by about 10 degrees, which was entirely due to the drift from the tidal current.  It was so re-assuring throughout the whole journey to have the GPS, which would give me a continually up-dated accurate bearing for all the way points I entered for any journey.  I always thought I knew where I was (! ?) Some of the navigation buoys were in fact structures standing 9 metres high out of the water on rock complete with range lights, bells and fog horns that could be heard for miles around.  As it came towards 2pm I could tell from the speed over the ground reading on the GPS that the tide had turned and the boat was slowing down.  At 3pm I came within sight of the Atomic power station on no name island. I seemed to be passing that place for ever.

I was well up the estuary by 3pm and had joined the main channel for large ships.  I suddenly saw a structure about a mile and half in front of me that was standing high out of the water. I couldn’t identify any green or red channel markers on it and it seemed to be right in the middle of the channel.  I checked my chart several times and couldn’t see any tower marked.  For a few minutes I was double checking my other way points on the GPS to make sure I was where I thought I was. I wondered which side I should pass it by…………….. and then it moved !!  It was tall dredging barge coming down river being pushed from behind by a tug.. Sigh of relief as it turned across the river to a dredging ship anchored on the starboard bank.

An hour later I was still fighting the current, when for some reason I glanced behind and was alarmed to see a huge container ship only 200 yards behind me and travelling like an express train !  It was pushing a 3-foot high wall of water in front of it and there was a big suction dip along the length of the ship to the stern wave, which I couldn’t see over despite standing up momentarily.  I was only offset from its path by about 50 yards. Not enough for comfort. I swung the tiller over and managed to get another 50 yards away before it passed me by. The swells of water were relative gradual compared to the ocean waves and the boat rode over them without a murmur.  I noticed that the captain of the ship did walk across to the starboard side of the bridge and looked aft, just to check that I was still there I suppose. I gave him a wave.

The wind had dropped around mid day and I was struggling to make progress above 3 knots until 5pm when the wind returned back right behind me. I raised the 150% jib and it gave me an extra 1.5 knots on the speed of the boat.  I managed to get the jib down before taking the awkward turning into the original narrow entrance of the Chesapeake and Delaware canal.  I arrived at Delaware City Marina at 7pm.  A 12-hour journey and I was tired but elated. I had done it !   Approximately 1500 miles with no major mishaps, thank goodness.

I had to restrain my urge to tell someone what I had just achieved, but it was midnight in the UK and no one would thank me for calling at that hour.  My friends Clark and Lori had not returned to Delaware City from the Buffalo area so I had a good meal and went to bed tired but satisfied.

I have left “FriendShip” out of the water in the tender care of the Delaware City Marina, which is 5 minutes walk from Clark and Lori’s home. Clark has kindly offered to check occasionally that the tarpaulins are still in place.  Many thanks. I’ll see you next year sometime ….

Would I do it again? Well I would rather go somewhere new.  The plan is to sail in the Chesapeake next year and then either sell the boat or possibly ship it home…

Sail it home ?  Una thought I was foolhardy to set out from Toronto with Brenda. If I attempted to sail across the Atlantic, I think she would be right.  No Thanks.

Alan Paul
11th October ’97

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