2022 in Review

It’s always useful and informative to compare actuals against plan.

I’ve just reread my plan for 2022. I think I can say results were consistent with the plan. The only real wrinkle was engine problems spanning the summer. But I was able to work around them and eventually resolve.

2023 is shaping up nicely, with several attractive options. No firm plan yet. I’ll report back when I have one.

Six Long Years…

I don’t pay much attention to such things, but WordPress just congratulated me on six years. That makes sense. This blog is well past 5 years.

I’m really enjoying it. Thanks to all who follow. You can usually catch me at Trawler Forum, but feel free to comment. I won’t bite!

Here’s to another five years!

Couchiching RR Bridge – Rant

I wrote this in Orillia shortly after the event. Here it is, unedited.

A lot of people work along the waterways.  Lock tenders and bridge tenders are for the most part friendly and helpful. 

I have to vent about my recent experience with the operator of the CN Rail bridge just above the Couchiching Lock on the Trent Severn waterway. He has been aggressively unfriendly and unhelpful. Maybe recounting my experience will help me to stop stewing about it.

This isn’t my first encounter with the same person.  In 2020 I was heading towards the lock in Mazurka with about 90 minutes left before the lock closed.  I approached the bridge, gave the sound signal, waited for at least five minutes with no response, signalled again and waited.  I may have signalled a third time.  Then a guy came out of the shack, glared at me, and told me he couldn’t open because a train was coming, and that I wouldn’t make the lock, and I’d have to backtrack to Orillia, about ten miles away.

I decided to anchor for the night in a little cove tucked off the channel about a mile from the bridge.  I was suspicious of the guy’s claim about the train.  About 45 minutes after I was turned away – still no train – a big motorcycle pulls up on the frontage road.  It’s the bridge tender.  He started by asking if he could help me.  I replied that I didn’t think he could, and that set him off. He harangued me and threatened to call the OPP.  I told him to do what he had to do and retreated to the cabin.  He eventually rode off.  There was no train until later.

The next morning I returned to the bridge, and he was outside.  No acknowledgement, but he had to open for upbound boats coming from the lock just as I arrived, so I got through.

I’m happy to report that Escapade just fits under the bridge, so didn’t think much about this earlier experience until Saturday, when I was coming up from the lock.  I got under the bridge, and a few minutes later my motor quit.  I dropped anchor here within sight of the bridge, and with the dinghy ran a stern line to shore so that there was lots of room for other boats to pass.  This is a no wake speed zone.

I was there all afternoon trying to diagnose the issue, and had arranged for Sarah to bring me some electrical parts that evening. At that point I was fairly confident that I could leave under my own power at some point. When the lock closed I knew there wouldn’t be any more boat traffic through that section, so I was completely ok with spending the night there if necessary.  I wondered if the same guy was still tending the bridge.

He was. At early evening canal closing time I was working in the engine room and heard someone calling from shore.  Big pickup.  Within 30 seconds I knew he was the same guy.  I decided to not engage, and didn’t say much as he launched into a tirade about how I couldn’t stay there, etc.  I patiently and clearly told him that I was disabled, actively working on fixing the issue, did not need to be towed, and did not need anything from him.  He told me if I was still here when he came back he would call for OPP and a tow.  I told him to do what he had to do.  At one point I interrupted to ask who he was and what jurisdiction he had.  He identified himself as working for Parks Canada.

A couple of hours later – it was near dark now – he appeared again.  I was trying hard to ignore him.  He yelled that the police and tow boat were on their way.  I gave him a thumbs up, and went back inside. 

At that point he actually called the OPP.  I could hear his conversation, as he was standing on the bank talking into his phone.  That set me off.  I really lost it, and came back out and yelled some obscenities at him, then closed my door and retreated.  After a bit he drove away.

About an hour after that I came up from the ER to find a set of headlights pointed straight at me from the access road. I ignored them, thinking it was the same nutter. In hindsight it may have been OPP, but nobody identified themselves.

It was close to 11:00 pm when the towboat showed up.  They had been instructed to tow me by the OPP. I gave a brief recap on the situation. They called the OPP, a car visited, and eventually we all agreed that I wasn’t in any danger or presenting any danger to others. They left, and I was able to have a decent sleep.

The next morning when I was still unable to start the motor I called the towboat back and was towed down to Orillia.

To satisfy myself that I’m not alone in my extreme displeasure over this guy’s behaviour I looked at Active Captain reviews for this bridge. Here are a few comments:

“We arrived at 9:07 and it didn’t open until almost noon!”

“Inconsiderate poor operation!”

“Gave three horn blasts as I approached at 0900. As we slowly approached I saw man enter the building. Didn’t look our way, so I didn’t know if he saw me. Waited five minutes, and no communication. I gave a single blast if the horn. Door immediate opened and the man screamed “if you blow that horn one more time, you’ll sit there all day.” As I apologized and try to ask a question he went back in the building. We waited. After awhile, he returned carrying a gas can, but did not look our way or give any signal or instruction. He moved a few things on the left side of the tracks, then walked across the bridge and repeated the process. Still no signal to us to wait or turn around or??? Walked up the stairs to the bridge shack. More waiting. Finally heard an engine start which is evidently the bridge mechanism. We waited for the bridge to open at which point he came back outside and screamed at us to hurry up through the bridge, then returned into the bridge shack. Quite possibly the angriest Canadian I have ever seen.”

That last one sums it up.

February

The view from my door

It got down to the minus teens last night and is forecast to be a little colder tonight. The first real cold snap of the winter.

I never did get around to sealing/insulating fully. There are lots of air gaps in the pilot house. But that’s ok, I’m treating it like an unheated entrance. I worry occasionally about having things too tightly sealed.

My heating plan has been successful. I’ve got 4x1500w oil filled heaters going full blast, 2 forward and 2 aft. Supplementing that is the hydronic heat system which can use waste heat from the motor (n/a), electric, or diesel burner. I’ve had it running on 3 kw electric. Today I turned on the diesel boiler for the first time when the interior got down to about 15.

There is still no ice. At this point I may not need my bubblers. My two neighbors turned theirs on yesterday, but I think there’s been enough wind to keep the lagoon agitated. In any case, all good.

I’ve been musing about electrical system changes over on Trawler Forum. Went to the boat show. I thought I’d have a shopping list, but really there’s little I need.

I’m still formulating summer plans – east, west or stay – and will lay them down here when I have a bit more clarity. Escapade is ready for whatever comes next.

Winter

Snow and east winds today, and more due overnight.

All is good aboard. I have a much bigger electrical service this year, and had 9000 watts of electric heat running today. Very comfortable. My plan is to use mostly electric for heat over the winter.

Next week I’ll get the shrink wrap on.

Loop Two – Costs

I mentioned earlier that I had crossed my wake in Wiarton. That was technically true, in that I could lay claim to a platinum burgee.  But really the trip that just ended started here in late May 2021, 17 months ago. 

Some numbers:

Distance Traveled: 10,007 NM / 18,500 km

Engine hours: 1,537 @ 1.4 gph 5.5 l/hr

Furnace hours: 958 @ 1.7 l/hr

Generator hours: 0

Total fuel used: 10,050 l

For propulsion that’s an average of 0.84 l/NM or 4.5 NM/gal.

Fuel price varied, but total was about CDN$15.500.

Other costs, largely from memory:

lock passes: $1,100

Dockage and mooring: $1,100

Equipment additions and upgrades: $9,500

     – this includes LiFePo house bank, inverter/charger, spare prop & line cutter

Repairs and maintenance: $17,000

    – this includes shaft replacement, engine shimming, prop repairs (X2), hauling, paint, oil changes, etc.  Also $6,500 in motor repair costs – injectors, injection pump and ECM.

Travel to and from boat: $2,500

Insurance: $2,300

Total: C$49,000

I should note that I had about $15k allocated for initial boat improvements that were still pending when I left. That was planned spending commissioning my new-to-me boat, rather than ongoing costs.

So, $34k for 17 months travel. I can live with that.

Interestingly sitting still doesn’t save much money. Winter dockage costs here are about $10k for six months, including power & heat.

Toronto!

I made it. Got in here Thursday night.

I’m happy to be tied up. It’s been 17 months since I left here to head east. Six months in one spot will be nice, and I’m making plans for shore time.

The trip down the Welland was easy. No big delays, and a nice day. Motor has run perfectly since leaving Chatham.

I’ve got a couple of summary posts to do. Will get caught up some time. Right now I’m focused on retrieving vehicles – got my motorcycle from Chatham today and will get down to Chicago to retrieve my van in the next few days. And I have a milestone birthday to celebrate.

Port Colborne

That was a smooth trip. I’m now at the top of the Welland Canal, and am booked for a downbound trip on Thursday morning. Looks like I’m going to make it to Toronto. As it turned out I’ve had increasingly nice weather since I got underway on Friday.

I had a bit more anxiety when the new computer didn’t arrive Thursday. But on Friday Clayton arrived about noon with the new unit. I left Chatham pretty much as soon as he was done.

Friday night I anchored across from Windsor Yacht Club. Fueled up Saturday morning, and spent the next night anchored off the north end of Pelee Island. First time there, and I walked a couple of km and had dinner out.

Sunday was a long run to Port Stanley. Nice stop. Monday was an easy trip to the tip of Long Point, where I anchored for the night. Today was an easy run with a side trip up the Grand River to Dunnville. Interesting area. It’s been five years since I was last through this area.

I’ve never been through the Welland. Samantha and Sarah are joining me tomorrow night and going through with me on Thursday.

Lake Erie in October

Engine repairs are well in hand. Mechanic will be back Thursday with a new ECU and some OEM fuel filters, and I’ll be cleared to carry on.

I’ll do a full post on the engine – history, symptoms, diagnostics and resolution – once I’m settled for the winter in Toronto. There is some small chance that the issue still exists, but I think it’s very small.

I hadn’t really had any concerns about making my way down the north shore of Lake Erie. It’s about 200 miles down the lake to the top of the Welland Canal. But I checked the operating season, and it closes on Nov 1.

Now I’m having concerns about making the Welland. It’s been shitty weather the last couple of days – I don’t think I’d be on Lake Erie if the boat was fixed. Hopefully I’ll get a weather window on the weekend to blast straight down the lake, but that’s looking pretty iffy. Strong southerlies forecast for early next week, not good…

I’m going to be thankful when I reach Lake Ontario, and ready for a break from boat travel. It’s not always roses and sunshine!

Chatham

I started having motor troubles shortly after I left Sarnia. When it ran it ran perfectly. But computer was turning off and I’d anchor and wait for it to come back on. I stayed on the Canadian side. Eventually made it to the mouth of the Thames River that evening, then up to Chatham the next day. I left Escapade for a few days, retrieved my motorcycle from Orillia, and today went to the local Deere dealer seeking assistance.

Success, I think. There is a tech coming tomorrow to run a full diagnostic, and there is a new ECU available if we need it. I’m 95% certain we will.

I like it here. Free public docking in the middle of town. Weather looks bad for the next week or so on Lake Erie, so I’m happy staying here this week and excited at the prospect of having a properly running motor.