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Old 08-10-2019, 06:22   #1
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Down East Loop

So, we are putting together our plan for our first post-retirement summer, the summer of 2021. Intention is the "Down East Loop" (up the Erie to Oswego, across Lake Ontario, Thousand Islands, down the St Lawrence, PEI, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and home. Probably in that order (we are aware that the Gulf is wide, and the PEI-Newfoundland-Nova Scotia portion has 200-300 mile passages, as does the Nova Scotia-New England trip). Take about 6 months (depart Maryland in late April to make the Erie Canal opening in May, arrive home in late October/early November).

Looking at the forum groups, the "Atlantic" isn't focused this far north. I don't think this is "Polar Regions." The "Great Lakes" doesn't include the Maritimes. But here I am in the Great Lakes forum, as the best guess.


We are looking for lots of general discussion. Customs/Border issues. Depth issues (both too shallow for our 7' draft, and too deep for our 300' of chain! LOL). Supplies issues. Wildlife issues (to see or to run from). Weather issues. Marinas/other ways to get ashore. Sightseeing thoughts. Get a Canadian Parks pass? Crime issues. Equipment suggestions. Communications (wifi/cell/vhf/hf). Anything else I missed.

Boat is a well equipped Saga 43. 18 months or so to departure!

Mike O'Reilly, your comments are especially welcome!


Harry
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Old 08-10-2019, 06:43   #2
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Re: Down East Loop

7' draft might somewhat limit your marina choices and keep you out of a few places in the Thousand Islands, but it shouldn't be a problem anywhere on the trip unless you experience any major shoaling in the canals.

Going through the canals, you'll be docked every night, usually somewhere between cheap and free (depending on where you want to stop and whether you care about having power, water, etc. available). It's 30 locks from the Hudson to Lake Ontario, but it's a pretty easy trip (and that's from my perspective of having done it in just under 3 days from the Troy Lock to Oswego Harbor on a delivery trip).

Communications wise, you'll definitely need a VHF. Personally, I'm a fan of having either 2 fixed mounts or 1 plus a handheld. That way you have more flexibility for keeping tabs on 16, 13 (a good idea when near commercial traffic and it's used for the locks in the canals) and the seaway channels (for the locks in the St. Lawrence and general traffic awareness in that area). Personally, I have 2 VHFs at my helm. Default setup is 1 on 13, the other on 9/16 dual watch. When switching to a working channel for something or if I have a need to monitor another channel, I usually switch 1 to that channel and leave the other on 13/16 dual watch (I'll give up the watch on 9 at that point, it's not heavily used around Lake Ontario from what I've seen). In the canals and anywhere near shore on Lake Ontario, you should have cell service most of the time.

For anchoring, at least in Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands, 300 feet of chain should be plenty. Depending on where you want to anchor once you're on the outside part of the loop, you may have to deal with some large tides and deep water. So if you have the space to carry it, it wouldn't hurt to add some nylon just in case you want/need more length. I'd figure somewhere around 500 feet total should cover anywhere you need to anchor and pretty much anywhere you'd want to. Of course, if you're going to anchor deep, make sure your windlass is up to the task of lifting your anchor and 100 feet of chain plus the weight of mud, etc.

For length of passages on the outside run of the trip, depending on the route you take, I remember a discussion on another forum indicating that the longest hops can be kept well under 200 miles if desired. So passage length and how often you stop at a marina vs anchoring, etc. can be adjusted based on your desires for the most part.
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Old 08-10-2019, 07:15   #3
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Re: Down East Loop

Thanks for the thoughts.


I'm looking forward to the canal/locks -- should be interesting.



The draft was what I expected -- a bit of an issue in the Thousand Islands, no where else.


We have the fixed VHF with a full featured remote at the helm, and a hand held -- the idea of using them both hadn't really crossed my mind but I like it.


I've often thought of adding 200 to the chain, but instead of nylon, dyneema. It's strong, small, light, cheap (1/4" at 7000 pound test is just under $0.50/foot delivered from a Chinese vendor I've found and like). It has zero stretch or catenary, but with 300 feet of chain out first, that shouldn't be an issue. Put 200' in the bottom of the chain locker, and with luck I'll never see it again -- but if I do, I'll be glad it's there.


We have a strong preference for anchoring, but do like to have ways to dinghy ashore.


Thanks again!

Harry
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Old 08-10-2019, 07:28   #4
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Re: Down East Loop

For the anchor rode question, what do you have for a windlass? If it's something that can handle a rope/chain splice, I'd recommend going with appropriate size nylon spliced to the chain just for ease of use (as you'll be able to pay it out / in just as easily as the chain).

The locks are definitely interesting (but it gets a little repetitive after a while). They're pretty easy though. And you get to go up first in that direction, so you get used to doing it the hard way before it gets easy (20 locks up, 10 locks down). And there's some very nice scenery along the canals. Just be prepared to keep a good watch for logs, chunks of trees, etc. in the water, especially after the spring runoff.
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Old 08-10-2019, 09:56   #5
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Re: Down East Loop

My windlass is a vertical Maxwell 1700. 1700 pounds of lift (not sure I believe it!), so it should be able to lift my entire kit. Has a capstan in addition to the wildcat, so it can pull anything. Your point about the full size nylon is valid, but if it's a once or twice thing, I can't help but think that 200' of 5/8" or 3/4" nylon is a lot more room in the anchor locker than 200' of 5/16" dyneema. Indeed, I'll have to struggle with it when lowering and again when raising.


Something to ponder over the next year. Not a hard job however I do it.
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Old 08-10-2019, 10:23   #6
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Re: Down East Loop

Space in the locker is definitely a concern. But if the nylon fits and you wouldn't be using that space for anything else, then it probably doesn't matter much in the long run.

If that windlass is the Maxwell RC1700, then it should seamlessly pull a spliced rope/chain setup, so that would save swapping to the capstan. And that's one of those cases where you may rarely "need" the longer rode (and resultant capstan usage), but if it's easy to use it, you may have a few times where you choose to anchor somewhere that would require it not because you have to, but just because you can and it's not a big deal to do it.
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Old 08-10-2019, 10:51   #7
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Down East Loop

Running chain over a bow roller and changing direction 90 degrees causes some loss of lifting capacity, I dont know how much though
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Old 08-10-2019, 12:06   #8
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Re: Down East Loop

Member Mike O'Reilly has sailed from Lake Superior to Newfoundland through a lot of those waters. You may find some of his observations helpful. You can use the advanced search function with his name as part of the search. Good luck, safe journey.
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Old 08-10-2019, 12:12   #9
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Re: Down East Loop

We did that trip in 2016. I kept a bit of a blog here.

First of all, your timing should be OK. It's a little early, getting to the Erie in May. You might find some marinas aren't open yet, but the good news is you'll be ahead of the bulk of the Great Loopers. You might want to look at the lobstering season along the Gaspe. If you come during that short season, you'll find the harbors (which are few and far between) pretty crowded.

You're probably wise to avoid the Champlain Canal route straight North, given your draft. We took that route, but we only draw 3.5'

Customs/Border issues: We had almost none. Canadian Customs was great, although you need to consider where to land in the US on return.

Depth issues (both too shallow for our 7' draft, and too deep for our 300' of chain! LOL): We never needed more than our 90' of chain and 300' of three-strand. We didn't do the Great Lakes, though. Some others travelling the same route with a 6' draft had to be pretty careful about which marinas, or where in the marina, they could go. 7' will be a challenge in some places.

Supplies issues. We always found a way to re-supply. It was really a non-issue.

Wildlife issues (to see or to run from): All kinds of sea life to see. Didn't ever need to run from anything.

Weather issues: The usual. We found the coast of Nova Scotia particularly tiresome; largely unprotected and lots of structure to break gentle swells into confused chop. And of course, you need to be comfortable running in fog.

Marinas/other ways to get ashore: Along most of the St. Lawrence, Gaspe and parts of Nova Scotia, the harbors are man-made and the marinas in them are the only option. But they're great places to stop and usually pretty reasonable.

Sightseeing thoughts: It's all great!

Get a Canadian Parks pass? We didn't. But we only had three months.

Crime issues. None.

Equipment suggestions: AIS. Automatic fog horn.

Communications (wifi/cell/vhf/hf): Most marinas had good WiFi. Cell coverage was surprisingly good with a Canadian SIM card. Of course VHF. Our most valuable comms equipment was the InReach, which allowed us to send and receive texts right from our phones (via Bluetooth) from anywhere.
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Old 08-10-2019, 12:47   #10
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Re: Down East Loop

Gaspe lobster season is a good tip -- unfortunately, it ends 30 June (give or take) and we may not be that far along. That little corner of land was certainly catching my eye as an area to spend some time. But kind of like Sturgis -- do you want to go there for the excitement of a zillion motorcycles, or go there when nothing is happening.


Yes, 7' rules out Champlain. Period.


For customs, we're getting the Nexus card. Wondering what issues there are on things like repeated border crossings (in the Thousand Islands). Also with alcohol, which could be a nuisance issue.


We already have a Class B transponder. Automatic fog horn is on our list, for sure. The fog horn is an issue. I don't want a big ugly bullhorn mounted on the mast and the VHF automatic system uses that. Need some sort of "Horn" (not bullhorn) that is loud but smaller, and a driver. More research.
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Old 08-10-2019, 13:04   #11
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Re: Down East Loop

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Originally Posted by sailingharry View Post
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


We already have a Class B transponder. Automatic fog horn is on our list, for sure. The fog horn is an issue. I don't want a big ugly bullhorn mounted on the mast and the VHF automatic system uses that. Need some sort of "Horn" (not bullhorn) that is loud but smaller, and a driver. More research.

Fog Signal Recording
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Old 08-10-2019, 13:19   #12
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Re: Down East Loop

Stu,


Do you get much fog in BC? Scratch that, we made it to Cape Flattery a couple years back (by land), and could barely see the water 50 feet below us. Quite a scenic visit! LOL.


So what do you use? I can't help but think that the loudhailer (amplified audio, either the VHF or a recording) is big and ugly. All the horns I see (automotive type, primarily) don't seem to have the dB. Maybe I have to hold my nose and mount something big and ugly!


Harry
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Old 08-10-2019, 13:34   #13
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Re: Down East Loop

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Originally Posted by sailingharry View Post
So, we are putting together our plan for our first post-retirement summer, the summer of 2021. Intention is the "Down East Loop" (up the Erie to Oswego, across Lake Ontario, Thousand Islands, down the St Lawrence, PEI, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and home.

===


We did the down east loop 3 years ago on our Grand Banks 49, starting from the NY/CT area, and going up the Hudson to Oswego. It's a great trip but some of it is a bit challenging. The NY canals are easy once you get the hang of locking through. NY State has a good guide available which I recommend. Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario is a good stop, particularly a restaurant called the Tin Pan Galley. Take your time in the Thousand Islands if you haven't been there before. The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton is especially worthwhile.


Going through Montreal on the St Lawrence Seaway locks is interesting but challenging. There is a huge amount of large commercial traffic and they get priority. Be prepared to tie up and wait. The lock masters are sometimes helpful with information on VHF but not always. Have some cash in Canadian money so you can pay at a discount. One thing we soon discovered was that 50 amp shore power is a rarity in Canada. We ended up buying a combiner that converts two 30s into a single 50. The current rating does not increase but at least your cables match up. You won't need air conditioning, usually the opposite.

The currents and tides on the St Lawrence are extreme once east of Montreal - 12 to 15 feet is not unusual. The main marina in Quebec City (recommended) has a lock at the entrance to their basin. Do spend some time there exploring old Quebec City which is within walking distance.

Going east from QC things start getting very basic. There is a good anchorage at Three Rivers, a marina at Cap--l'Aigle, and a good marina at Tadoussac at the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord - beautiful country and great whale watching. After that marinas are few and far between, populated mostly by commercial fishing boats. Anchoring is almost impossible because of the deep open water and rocky shores. We carry 200 ft of chain in the locker and 300 ft of 7/8ths line in a barrel on deck. It was never used in the river although there were a few opportunities.

Weather was very cool and windy until back south to PEI. We were in sweaters, fleece jackets and ski hats much of the time we were on the river.

By all means take the time to go into the Bras D'or Lakes. They are truly a gem and there's a great little town called Baddeck.

Going south along the Nova Scotia coast can be rough and windy. We tucked in behind the numerous islands as much as possible but you need to have good charts and be comfortable with fog navigation. It's a lot like Maine without the lobster pots. Their season ends before summer starts.

Hope that helps.
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Old 08-10-2019, 16:16   #14
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Re: Down East Loop

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===

One thing we soon discovered was that 50 amp shore power is a rarity in Canada. We ended up buying a combiner that converts two 30s into a single 50. The current rating does not increase but at least your cables match up. You won't need air conditioning, usually the opposite.

The currents and tides on the St Lawrence are extreme once east of Montreal - 12 to 15 feet is not unusual. The main marina in Quebec City (recommended) has a lock at the entrance to their basin. Do spend some time there exploring old Quebec City which is within walking distance.

Going east from QC things start getting very basic. There is a good anchorage at Three Rivers, a marina at Cap--l'Aigle, and a good marina at Tadoussac at the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord - beautiful country and great whale watching. After that marinas are few and far between, populated mostly by commercial fishing boats. Anchoring is almost impossible because of the deep open water and rocky shores. We carry 200 ft of chain in the locker and 300 ft of 7/8ths line in a barrel on deck. It was never used in the river although there were a few opportunities.

By all means take the time to go into the Bras D'or Lakes. They are truly a gem and there's a great little town called Baddeck.
As a sailboat, we only have 30A, and don't use that very often. But good to know!


The currents -- those tides I would assume make big currents. How much current? Same strength in both directions, or more down than up? Seems that timing your day's start could be critical!


Basic....commercial marina's....anchoring impossible... Those are all key points I was hoping to hear about. If you can't anchor, and the marina's are commercial, where do you stop? I cruised Nova Scotia in the late 70's, and it was not uncommon for us to raft outside a fishing boat.



Baddeck... ah, yes. The northernmost port in our cruise of '78. A girl, ah, yes, a girl. Long gone to the pages of history, sadly. I might try and knock on the door, see if anyone knows of her.
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Old 08-10-2019, 18:37   #15
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Re: Down East Loop

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Originally Posted by sailingharry View Post
For customs, we're getting the Nexus card. Wondering what issues there are on things like repeated border crossings (in the Thousand Islands). Also with alcohol, which could be a nuisance issue.

...Automatic fog horn is on our list, for sure...Need some sort of "Horn" (not bullhorn) that is loud but smaller, and a driver. More research.
We signed up for some sort of special program with US customs. Was worthless. We just showed up at the CA boarder crossing at the tip of Lake Champlain and were welcomed right through. They didn't even look in the liquor locker when I reported that we had a number of open bottles, but no large quantities unopened.

We have a FogMate automatic fog horn actuator. You can hook it up to a dedicated switch, or just press your regular horn button in a certain pattern to activate it.

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The currents -- those tides I would assume make big currents. How much current? Same strength in both directions, or more down than up? Seems that timing your day's start could be critical!

Basic....commercial marina's....anchoring impossible... Those are all key points I was hoping to hear about. If you can't anchor, and the marina's are commercial, where do you stop? I cruised Nova Scotia in the late 70's, and it was not uncommon for us to raft outside a fishing boat.
Ahhh, I should have mentioned... Get Capt. Cheryl Barr's Book "The Down East Circle Route." Read the parts about "playing the currents." Yes, you can (and probably should) buy the CHS current table book, but Cheryl has it all worked out for you in tables; just look up your start and stop point, and speed, and it'll tell you when to get underway. Works every time!

Yes, there are stretches where the only option is a marina. And yes, you may have to raft up to a fishing boat. But the prices are reasonable and it's a great way to see the local communities. The fishermen are really friendly. Usually provisions are nearby, and if not, you'd be hard pressed to sit on the dock very long before someone offers you a ride into town. We thought we'd be anchoring out far more than we did, but that was in no way a disappointment.

And by "marina," what I mean is a fishing port carved out of the rock and enclosed with a breakwater by the federal government. Originally built for commercial fishing, many have added floating docks and now cater to recreational boats, too. Some are managed by the local fishing co-op, some by Parks Canada, and some by the local municipality. These are nothing like the marinas you'll find in the populated parts of the US Northeast. Unless you're the "yottie" type, I think you'll enjoy them a lot more.
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