Sunday, July 15, 2018

It's a Boat! It's a Bar! CanalLounge!

Atwater Marche, with its distinctive clock-tower. The gentrifying industrial
neighborhood reminded us of Gowanus or Red Hook.
On July 10 we made it under three super-low bridges and docked at Montreal's Atwater Market.

We swooned over the fromageries, boulangeries, patisseries, and fresh fruits and veggies.

Canal Boat Ho!

Even more exciting than the formidable cheese selection: we were sharing the dock with another canal boat. It was a distinctive style of vessel: a bateau mouche. You  know them as the glass-topped excursion boats that cruise the Seine, in Paris.

Even more exciting: this boat was a cafe/bar. No question about our evening's entertainment. We trekked on over.

Adorableness Afloat

Amsterdam comes to Montreal!
The Canal Lounge (Cafe Flottant) has flowers on the roof, a pair of Adirondack chairs on the bow, and a cushioned, canopied lounging area at the stern. It's as adorable inside as outside: classical nautical style meets high elegance meets nightclub.  Fresh flowers on the curved sailboat-style tables. Cut crystal barware. And color-change mood lighting glowing from red to purple to teal to orange.

A young man in a crisp white shirt was bustling about and dropped by our table to ask how we were doing. "We love your boat!" we enthused. "We're on a canal boat too!"

Love at First Sight

Gurvan (left) and Jeroen, proprietors of Canal Lounge
Our host brought over a photo album and told us a little bit about the boat's history, sparking an enthusiastic conversation that continued later that night, when the two owners finally closed up and came down the dock to have a glass of wine on OUR boat.

Gurvan Bartholo and his spouse Jeroen Ter Schiphorst never set out to create what Narcity calls "the most romantic place" to have a drink in Montreal. They were flight attendants and happy with their life.

Then Jeroen spotted this boat in an online ad. It was the exact same scenario as when Cap first met Dragonfly: pure love at first sight. They had to have it.

Diamond in the Rough

Flowers above, romance below . . .
The 42-year-old former tour boat, built in Canada, was in tough shape. Gurvan and Jeroen spent 6 months renovating it, stripping almost every surface, rebuilding inside, painting the hull and superstructure.

Then there was the work of negotiating with Parks Canada to anchor a bar in the middle of a national historic site, the Lachine Canal.

And the adventure of cruising it up the Ottawa River, which was as bouncy for them as it was for us.

But now Canal Lounge is a "must visit." Both local condo dwellers and developers cite it as an important amenity in the neighborhood. The guys have eight employees.  A success all around.

The Brotherhood of the Boaters

 One of the best things about boating is the people you meet, and how quickly your shared experiences make you fast friends. Visiting with these two crazy, visionary canal boat enthusiasts was one of the high points of the trip so far.

We like to say, only half joking, that our mission is to spread the joys of canal boating across North America.  Gurvan and Jeroen are doing the same with Canal Lounge. Hats off to you!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Adventures in Lowness

The iconic mountain that is Montreal as seen from the Ottawa River!

We left the St. Anne de Bellevue Lock on a bright morning. A few hours' travel on bouncy waves brought our first sight of Montreal.  

Closer to shore, we scanned for the buoys marking the entrance Lachine Canal

After a long, slow, puttering trip down a narrow channel that took us just feet from the boats docked in an enormous marina, we, finally arrived around noon outside Lock 5. 

We were pleased to welcome a couple of boat visitors soon after, Jacqui and Michael Reid-Walsh.  (Check the Visitors page of this blog for deets and to consider when YOU'd like to visit us!)

Bonjour, Lachine Canal!

We stayed not far from this historic house,
completed in 1671 and still standing

Like the other canals we've visited, the Lachine was built for commerce.  It cuts through a neighborhood where warehouses and factories crowd the banks. 

In planning this trip we were relieve to learn this canal was in fact open, not closed as some guides suggested.  

Were it not for the Lachine, we would have had to continue on the river, around the island of Montreal . . . and when we reached the juncture with the St.  Lawrence, the current would have been too strong for us to turn back and enter the city.

There was just one tiny problem.  The Lachine has several bridges that are a mere 8 feet above the water.  Dragonfly is 9 feet from the waterline to the top of her canopy.

We're Good with Low

Well!  We've played this game before! It so happens that if you unscrew the metal poles supporting our stern canopy and lower the canopy to the deck, we are a mere SEVEN feet tall.

So that's what we did!  (More photos on Facebook.) Lachine Canal, here we come!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

What IS It? (With Bonus "Boat Gourmet" Tip!)

We were happy to see the weed-eater. Cap's gone swimming
several times to get weed off our propeller!
The last installment of the SlowBoat "What IS It?" quiz invited you to identify a strange machine that seemed to be steamrolling the river.

Hats off to Jonathan Shanks who correctly identified it as a weed harvesting machine. He'll receive the SlowBoat prize, a genuine post card via old-fashioned snail mail.

(In case you want more info: The Rideau Canal is infested with an invasive water weed. It gets wrapped around your prop shaft and slows you down.  The weed eater is one way that the government keeps the route a little more clear for boaters.


Why are those little round floats arranged in such nice, straight lines?
This one also comes from the Rideau Canal. Outside the Manotick Lock, we noticed a whole field of little round floats.  They seemed to be arranged in nice, neat straight lines.

We've been flummoxed by floats before, notably the fishing noodles we spotted on the Ten-Tom Waterway during our Great Loop Cruise.

Oyster farm? No, this is freshwater. Freshwater pearl farm? Good guess, but no.
This field of floats at Manotick, however, has nothing to do with fishing.  So, what IS it?

Write your answer on a Pestzilla TM Robust UV Electronic Bug Zapper and send it to . . . oh wait! We don't get mail delivery on the boat!  Use the comment function below, put a note on the SlowBoat FaceBook page, or email Cynthia.  You could be our next lucky winner!

BONUS! Boat Gourmet Tip

Plain toast? Never!  We serve avocado toast on THIS boat!
Let's say you enjoy a slice of toast with your breakfast.  But your boat has no toaster. (This isn't a yacht! There's not a lot of counter space in the galley!)

Or say you DO have a toaster but you are anchored out, not plugged in to shore power. 

That toaster will drain your house batteries faster than you can say "What about my blow dryer?"

A Toast to Toast

Never fear. You can still make delicious buttery toast in two minutes flat. 
Whoever said, "Cheese alone does not
constitute dinner" never shopped at
a Montreal fromagerie!
  1. Melt some butter in your trusty skillet.
  2. Take a slice of bread.  Dip it quickly in the melted butter, then turn it over and put the plain side down in the remaining butter (the butter-dipped side is up)
  3. Adjust your heat to medium-low.  Give it a minute.
  4. Use a spatula to check. 
  5. When the bread looks toasty, flip it. 
  6. You already buttered the side that is now down against the pan.  No need to add more butter!
  7. Repeat step 4.  When your toast is ready, breakfast is served.
Garlic bread variation: For when you're serving spaghetti but you don't want to heat up the boat by turning the oven on. (Or you only need enough garlic bread for two):
  1. Use Italian bread
  2. Add a little garlic powder and oregano to the butter as it melts
  3. Enjoy!
Always remember, a well-fed Captain is a happy Captain!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lock On!

Quick links:
Check Facebook for a photo album showing our transit of Carillon Lock!
And another FB album for the St. Anne de Bellevue Lock. (Both are on the Ottawa River)

On Beyond the Rideau

Rideau Canal locktenders don't need to hit the gym to lift weights after work!
We loved the Rideau Canal and its charming limestone locks, their doors operated by locktenders using antique machinery.  We were sad to say goodbye.

Happily, we still have many more historic Canadian canals to transit!

On Saturday July 7 we left our peaceful anchorage on the Ottawa River, headed east toward the Carillon and St. Anne-de-Bellevue locks, and ultimately, Montreal.

Before the Locks, a Log Castle!

We stopped at the town of Montebello to view its most famous attraction, The World's Largest Log Castle. (For real! The world's largest structure built entirely of logs. Red cedar, specifically.) This picture doesn't do it justice; you're seeing one tiny corner of the whole.

Chateau Montebello was built in 1930, using 3,500 workers who finished the job in four months. For its first 40 years, it operated as a private club. (Jews were not allowed, among others).  Today it's a luxury resort with stables,  mini-golf, and off-road SUVing.

He's Still a Handy Man to Have Around

We stopped for the night in the town of Hawkebury.  Our dorm-sized boat fridge took this opportunity to die, leaking loads of water from the frosted freezer compartment across the kitchen floor.

Cap got 'er fixed up just about as fast as he got that new water pump installed. Ice cubes didn't even thaw.

Going Under the Guillotine

Check out the counterweight that raises and lowers the gate!
To make the trip through the lock with us, see the album on Facebook.
On Sunday, July 8, we set a course down the Ottawa River for the Carillon Lock. Like the Rideau, this brief canal and its single lock were constructed after the War of 1812 as part of a proactive military effort to make sure they had transportation channels that would be safe from American attack.

Where the Rideau is almost unchanged since it was built nearly 200 years ago, the Carillon was majorly reconstructed when a hydro dam was completed in 1964.  So this lock is modern as modern can be, lifting (or lowering) boats about 64 feet.

The striking 200-ton"Guillotine Gate" at the downstream end of the lock goes up and down like, well, the blade of a guillotine--a contrast to traditional lock gates that swing like doors.

When Locking Through, Bring Cookies

On the Rideau, a locktender had told us that he and his colleagues looked favorably on boats that bestowed pastries. So Cap was ready with a platter of freshly baked peanut butter cookies for the two young ladies who handled our lines.

From Carillon we had a windy and bouncy ride up the river. Finally we reached the safe harbor of St. Anne-de Bellevue, where the lock, in great contrast to Carillon, lifts just a few feet.

The St. Anne locktenders were just as charming as the Carillon locktenders, and just as pleasingly surprised by their cookies.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

He's a Handy Man to Have Around

That's what I always say about Cap. Witness Friday morning July 6. 
Uh oh. Serious toolboxes. This means trouble . . .
We’re ready to leave the Lac Leamy Casino for the next stage of our trip, 100 miles on the Ottawa River. Our water pump chooses this moment to die.

This is bad. We plan to anchor out the next few days. Without a pump, our sinks, shower, and toilet won't work. What will we do for water?

Brilliant Save!

My hero to the rescue!
Flash back to Kingston, at the head of the Rideau Canal. We visited Vandervoort General Store, a funny old-fashioned place that, in addition to curtains and t-shirts, sells marine supplies. 

“The water pump’s been acting up,” Cap said. “They have the pump we need.  Maybe we should get it.

"But it’s expensive,” he sighed, putting the box back on the shelf. 

“I think we should get it,” said the crew, fishing out a Visa card.

So when our pump died this week, we had a backup pump on the boat. No need to search frantically for a West Marine and figure out how to get there without a car.

Cap  installed the new pump in about an hour flat.  Because even though he’s not a certified marine mechanic, he plays one in this movie.

Hello, Ottawa River

Tall silos and silver steeples
 can be useful aids to navigation!
The previous days had been scorching. This day was cool, overcast and windy.  The Ottawa River is wide, so the wind kicks up whitecaps and little rollers. 

We hunkered in sweatshirts, cruising past  cottages with docks, big farms with tall silos, and little towns marked by their churches. 

Tinplate is a common roofing material for French-Canadian churches, and the silver steeples gleamed even on this dull day.

Let Me Tell You a Ferry Tale

At one point, Cap called crew on deck. ‘Grab your binoculars and take a look. I can’t figure this out! 

"These two boats seem to be weaving back and forth, passing each other.” Why would they be doing that?

As we drew closer the optical illusion resolved. Not two but six big ferries. Not passing one another in line, up and down the river, but traversing across.

This is not a drill. Where should you pilot your SlowBoat?
Now we had an interesting challenge: How to thread the needle.  The ferries had the right of way. They were moving quickly--much faster than we could run. At any given moment at least two were mid channel, sometimes more than two. There didn't seem to be a pattern to when they departed shore. Could we stay out of their way?

We didn't move QUITE as fast as this jet skis. But pretty good for a SlowBoat!
This was where Cap’s back-up battery bank proved its worth. 

Calling on both batteries banks at once, he was able to punch up a little extra power and goose us through the gauntlet.

Where We Stayed

We anchored out that night in a narrow channel behind Isle Dube. No signs of human habitation. No road noise. Water pump performing perfectly.

At dusk a chorus of birdsong broke out, including the haunting spiral of a veery, a bird of deep woods.

We lit the Shabbat candles and said our usual prayers--substituting “boat” for “home” in the blessings.


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