So, whenever I get my motor issues sorted, I will get back underway and continue on.  

My plan all along has been to head for Ottawa via the Rideau Canal.  Last year I got almost to Kingston then headed south to Oswego.

Since I came west last year via the Erie Canal I thought I should exit Lake Erie through the Welland, stop in Toronto for a few days, then head for the Murray Canal.  All waters that I have yet to travel fully.

Beyond Ottawa my plans have been hazy.  Likely down the Ottawa to Montreal, then a choice of coming back up the St Lawrence or downriver a bit.  The Chambly Canal has always fascinated me, and leads to the US border and the north end of Lake Champaign, which leads the the Hudson River which leads to the Erie Canal.  But where to end up?  How far to go?  I have no idea :-). No sense getting too far ahead of myself.  I have no real commitments for at least a month and am not planning beyond that.

I should say that last year I had three segments that were for me the highlights, in no particular order

  • The western part of the Trent Severn, particularly from Lake Simco to the Kawartha Lakes
  • The small boat passage in Georgian Bay between Port Severn and Killarny.  God’s country, particularly north.
  • The Erie Canal

I also thought that this year would be a good reason to stay in Canada.  Suffice to say that I am a proud Canadian.  

But I have to say the Erie Canal is calling me.  I think it’s mostly due to my aversion to open water.  Am going to noodle on that a bit.

The dink

My dinghy is an old beat up Avon RIB310 – that’s Rigid Inflatable Boat – with a Yamaha 15 hp 2 stroke outboard.

I actually bought this used about a year before I got Mazurka.  Like most of my purchases, it was a very deliberate choice.

Everyone’s got one these days, and I wasn’t familiar  with many of the brands I saw when I thought about getting one. When it comes to boats I’m sort of locked into a set of experiences from the 1970s through to 1993, followed by a 20+ year recess, and it was based on this that I defined my needs.

In mid-late 1970s I was working as a tender operator at BBYC.  Great summer job, driving a small motorboat taking people to and from their boats that were moored in the bay.  We had a couple of outboard powered Boston Whalers, 13-15 ft.  There were about 150 boats in the mooring field.

For the 1976 Montreal Olympics they used Avon Seariders as crash boats, and our provincial sailing authority picked one up afterwards.  I got to spend a fair amount of time with it.  It was an incredible boat.  Scary at times, but fast and agile with a deep V double bottom hull and a big hole in the transom so the section between the two hulls filled with water at rest for stability.  Frustrating to get on a plane because you basically plowed bow up for 30 seconds while the water drained out, but then you were gone.  Also darn near indestructible. You could bang into things.  I won’t detail the level of abuse we put these boats through, but this boat stood up to it. 

 One of the boat trailer incidents I’ve been witness to happened with that boat – my friend Andrew Boswell with me as a passenger was driving on the highway with the boat in tow and it came unhitched. One brief tug to snap the chains then it veered right and out of sight off the shoulder. We pulled over, walked back and found the boat off an embankment in some small trees.  Got the boat back on the trailer, pulled it up the bank and got back underway.  I think the boat was in service next day 🙂 

I sold Avon inflatables briefly in the late 1990s and they were the best of the crop and had a recreational line of RIBs that were descendents of the original Searider.  The 310 (10 ft) was the right size for me, and I really liked that boat.  So I went looking for one in 2015.  When researching small outboards Yamaha came to the top pretty quickly.  I was originally set on a four stroke, but after considering weight, performance and simplicity opted for a 2 stroke.  This is a fabulous motor.

I watched Kijiji for a few months and kept my eye open for one.  Turns out there aren’t a lot around here.  Found one finally and bought it.

The boat in real use?  Great in flat water, and with 1-3 people.  At speed in waves it can be punishing.  I probably wouldn’t have minded at one point in my life, but crossed a five mile open bay today in a good chop and got thrown around a fair amount.  But given that it hangs on davits across the stern I can’t go any bigger or heavier, so that’s the compromise.

One thing I’d like to develop is the ability to tow or push Mazurka with the dinghy. Keep thinking it can be done, but haven’t worked out a system.  Had a hilarious moment last summer when my son Miles and his friend Brad were trying to tow the mother ship into a stiff breeze.  I suggested that they secure the towline to the bow of the dinghy to be able to pivot.  The towline took Miles under the chin and tossed him over the side.  A good tow bit stood up in front of the outboard seems to be the only answer.  I had good results strapping the inflatable alongside in sailboats, but it doesn’t seem to work with the power boat.  Ah well, even if it can’t be a rescue boat it’s always around as a life boat 🙂


I’m back where I was Sunday night.  A very pleasant spot just south of Port Rowan.  

Still having motor trouble… I pulled into Port Dover, but really didn’t see any attractive options for staying.  I’m not a big fan of the open lake, and also not a big fan of staying at marinas.  The cost bothers me – about the same as a cheap hotel.  Guess I could budget for it, but handing over $50-75 per night sort of rubs me the wrong way.  I much prefer to be hanging on the hook.

So I’m now 4 days into my trip.  Was planning to be in Toronto today, but have been reminding myself that I’m not on any schedule.  Enjoy the moment!  Had a nice hot shower, turned the heat on, cleaned up.  Tomorrow I’m going to clean the engine room and get to the bottom of my motor problems.  

ps the patch on the dinghy was moderately successful. Only a very small leak now that I can live with. Had fun this evening blasting around exploring.  It’s a great tender, an old Avon RIB 310 with a Yamaha 15 hp 2 stroke.  Can cover some distances fast with just me aboard.

So I’ve come to realize that the kind of boating I want to do is in very sheltered waters with lots of choices of places to stop or visit.  Guess that confirms I’m a river rat.  I had thought about going to Nova Scotia, and then wondered what I’d have to do to my boat to be properly prepared.  But I realize that I’m not prepared!  I will never miss open waters.

Spectacular lightning

Out over the lake to my south.  Long way off, just occasional faint thunder.  It’s cool how it lights the whole horizon.

Got operational about 9 pm and cruised for a couple of hours out of the Little Bay.  Now anchored just east of Turkey Point.  A bit more exposed but pretty calm right now and winds are forecast to drop tonight.

I had a new gear cover delivered to me at supper time by a guy who runs a used Cummins parts business.  I had seen his web site last year, called him at noon and he got one and drove 20 minutes to drop it off.  I met him at the Big Creek bridge :-). Patched the dinghy and got it going to run in to meet him.

I’m still puzzling over the motor.  But it’s running properly as far as I can tell now.

Tomorrow I head to Port Colborne. Weather looks OK.

Motor fix

So I found the issue – what looked like a bolt was loose in the timing gears. Ugh.  Did some damage to the cover – see picture – but gears look ok so far. Sourcing a new cover locally, hopefully they can get it to me today.  You can see where it got chewed up and also evidence that the cam gear was forced out against the cover. That likely explains the earlier issues with the injector pump.  I thought it might be the killer dowel pin but that seems intact.  Am going to bar the motor over to check gears and see if I can find out where the offending piece came from… Proceeding with extreme caution and diligence.  

Day 2

Snuggled up off Big Creek at anchor in about 4 feet of water.  It’s blowing fairly hard – about 25 knots – from the West and this is the quietest place I could find.

Yesterday was not uneventful.  I left Port Bruce about 0830.  As I mentioned this was really my first proper outing with the new motor, and I wasn’t surprised to have a few issues.

First off I had an oil leak from the valve cover.  Couldn’t really tell which one.  The motor also started starving for fuel when I went above about 1800 rpm.  Most disturbingly I had a leak from the gear cover that was sending smoke and oil out under higher speeds.

Wind was Southwest about 15 knots so I had a quartering sea. Quite pleasant underway.

I stopped in Port Burwell to fix the valve cover leak.  I had the covers off earlier so no surprises, but the gaskets are sort of a silicone and seem too big when warm.  After one unsuccessful attempt I put them in the freezer for 1/2 hour, cleaned everything carefully and that solved that issue.

I wasn’t keen to run hard with the gear cover leak, so continued on east.  Forecast was for strong west winds today so ducked around Long Point and anchored last night inside the point.  Had a good sleep.  Beautiful morning, anchored in about 5 feet of water on a sand bottom.

I changed the fuel filter this morning – pretty sure that the air was getting in around the gasket, so wanted to replace it.  The gear cover leak puzzles me.  There must have been crankcase pressure to cause the leak… But I reinstalled the CCV system last week, and my working theory is that it was somehow plugged and allowed pressure to build that blew out the gasket.  I really hope that’s it.  Have disconnected the closed loop and have unrestricted ventilation now

Fortunately I have a spare gasket aboard, so the main project for the rest of the day is to see if I can fix that.  Might be tricky.  I also still need to patch the inflatable.  

Have I mentioned how much I hate waves?  I’m quite happy to hang out here until the wind dies a bit to avoid the waves out on the lake today, so will putter away at the repairs. 

GPS stats from yesterday

Tomorrow I Leave

Just got home from the boat, and am realizing that tomorrow morning – ideally early – I’m boarding Mazurka for what may be 4 or 5 weeks.  Wow.  I’ve been plotting and scheming about this for a while, and it’s actually going to happen.  

This means I have a busy evening ahead.  Packing clothes, going through some checklists at home, and buying groceries.  Need to have a few days of food aboard.

The cruise hasn’t started yet though. Tomorrow is very much going to be a shakedown exercise.  While I thing all systems are in good shape, I do have a new motor, and I did have some challenges this spring in getting it fully operational.  More on that later.  In any case, essentially I’m breaking it in tomorrow doing the 100 mile run down the lake to reach the entrance to the Welland Canal.  If tomorrow goes well, I’ll be ready to relax.  If it doesn’t I’m sure you’ll hear about it here in due course.

Wind forecast is for west winds 15 kt, so I’m hopeful that it won’t be too rough.  Likely the nastiest piece will be the 20 miles approaching Port Colborne but assuming motor is good I’m going to have the hammer down.  This is a test/delivery segment.  I’ll be happy never to visit Lake Erie by boat ever again.

Wish me luck!

Final prep

Cleaning today.  Still a few things left on my list, but hopefully no show stoppers. Plan is to leave here on Saturday and head for eastern Ontario and Quebec.

Hopefully you can see the difference between the clean right side and the yet-to-be cleaned left.

Still on my list:

  • Patch hole in my RIB and get it down here.  My tender is an old Avon RIB 310 (10 ft) with a Yamaha 15 hp two stroke.  Fun little boat.  A new boat is on my list but I’m trying to keep the old one working for another year.  Patched a hole in the hull this spring, so hopefully it will be seviceable this year.  Also reinforced the davits this spring, so expect to have a more robust arrangement over last year.
  • Clean interior
  • Replace lower shift cable.  Old one is stiff and I tried lubing but am going to replace it.
  • Configure alarms on sensors – I added EGT and two new temp guages – exhaust temp at the muffler and oil temp and will play with them to determine appropriate thresholds. Have a car horn that I can have set off when parameter values are exceeded.
  • Check fuel system carefully – one return line seems to be partially blocked, and I think I’m still getting air in somewhere.  I put in a squeeze bulb with lots of clear hose on my intake line and it helps to bleed and identify issues.  See pic below.
  • Clean motor, generator and bilges.  I am also putting in a drain hole on each stringer to ensure no water pools there.
  • Install wifi booster antenna on flybridge.

That’s about it!

2017 plans

I finished work on Friday, with an expected return of mid-September.  I have a few local obligations over the summer, but am planning to get underway this week and spend most of the next 3 months underway and aboard.

Boat is in Port Bruce Ontario, on the North shore of Lake Erie about mid-lake.

Current plan is to head east, go though the Welland Canal to Lake Ontario, and make my way liesurely to Kingston.  Then up the Rideau Canal to Ottawa.  Beyond that I’m flexible.  Probably down the Ottawa River to Montreal.  Would like to visit the Chambly Canal and maybe areas downstream of Montreal. 

I’m quite happy and comfortable traveling by myself, but hope that friends and family can join for some segments of the trip.  I’m going to try to document my plans here as they unfold to help with coordinating those visits.