The first day is entirely on the highway, a long haul of about 405 miles from Michigan to Canada.
|Date:||Saturday, June 16, 2007|
|Weather:||Warm and sunny|
|Traffic:||Heavy in stretches|
|Departure:||Beverly Hills, Michigan|
|Distance:||405 miles by highway|
|2007 Cruise on Rideau Canal|
We depart about 8:30 a.m. on a warm June Saturday morning, our trip starting slowly, as we work our way to the interstate highway for a 90-mile drive to Sarnia and a border crossing into Canada. These first few miles take us until almost 11 a.m., when we pull off the road at the Ontario Visitor Center. We have traveled to Canada often in the past and found it a bargain, but the value of U.S. money has fallen dramatically in the past four years. Once our American dollar bought $1.56 in Canadian currency, but it is now down to $1.05 at best, a decline of 33-percent. With the money almost at par, Canada's 16-percent tax added to all purchases becomes an even greater burden. Chris exchanges several hundred dollars in cash but gets a rate of only CA-$1.02. We hope for better on our VISA card to which we plan to charge the majority of our expenses.
While Chris is away changing money, I check the trailer by using an infrared temperature gun to measure its tire and wheel bearing temperatures. The results are not very good; all of the bearings are running quite warm, with temperatures as high as 135-degrees where, ideally, there should be little or no temperature rise at all. This is the first long pull with the trailer this season, and I try to explain away the high temperatures as some rust on the brake drums that is being worn off. I will keep monitoring the wheel bearing temperatures closely as we go on.
We head east on the limited access highway, and although the road soon narrows to one lane for a few miles of road construction, as always, traffic is light and there is no delay. After another 100 miles we pull off at a service center for refueling. I check the wheel bearing temperatures again, but this time I get great results: all bearing temperatures are down below 90-degrees, and all are lower than the tire temperatures. It seems as though whatever friction there was in the system has worn itself away, and the trailer is running much cooler. Since I had just rebuilt all of the wheel bearings last summer, I had confidence that the bearings were good. I suspect that the heat rise was from the friction of rusty brake drums, and it has now, after about 200-miles of travel, worn itself into a normal amount of brake drag.
Fuel at the highway service center is about $1.05 per liter in Canadian money, or about $3.79 per gallon in U.S. funds. At one time this would have been a shocking price for highway gasoline, but since we have been paying $3.25 per gallon in our own country for a few weeks, the price does not seem to be outrageous, and there are few options.
Concern about fuel price was a consideration in how we would make this trip. Before departing I had given some thought to topping off the 77-gallon tank in the boat with low-cost American highway gasoline, which I estimated might save as much as $1 per gallon, translating into perhaps $75 in savings. However, hauling the boat with a full tank of gasoline adds weight--a full tank weighs 480-lbs--making the rig that much heavier and harder to pull. And in the event of a serious accident, 77-gallons of fuel flying around the highway could be a danger. It does not seem to be a risk worth taking for only a $75 potential savings. We are hauling the boat with the fuel tank below 1/4-FULL, about the usual maximum we like to tow.
The megalopolis of Toronto is our next highway obstacle, and we are lucky that our eastbound lanes are only slowed to a few miles of stop-and-go traffic. The westbound lanes--all eight or ten of them--are sitting at a dead stop because a serious accident has blocked traffic for miles. By mid-afternoon we have Toronto behind us, and we are rolling smoothly along on eastbound Highway-401. From an elevated bluff this beautiful road gives us occasional glimpses of Lake Ontario's northern shore.
Around the port of Colbourn, we are cruising in the right lane, and getting passed by the majority of other cars when a dark Suburban SUV rolls past. A mile or so later we find the same Suburban, now traveling much slower, and we pass him. As we do, the passenger in the SUV holds up a quickly made sign, "JIM ?"
We nod in assent, and get a laugh out of this highway meeting with another Boston Whaler devotee. A mile or two ahead there is a service center, and we both pull in for a spontaneous highway gam. The fellow traveler turns out to be a long-time participant in the CONTINUOUSWAVE website. He recognized our boat, and tells me "when I saw the driver with a white beard" our identity was confirmed.
After an enjoyable ten minute rendezvous, we get back on the highway for the final stretch to Kingston, our destination for today. Having never visited Kingston, we are not sure what we will find near the marina for gasoline stations. At the last highway service center, we stop to add some fuel to the boat. I add 35-gallons at CA-$1.02 per liter, which brings the fuel gauge to about 3/4-FULL. This will give us a start on our trip with some moderately priced gasoline.
A few miles further at Exit 623 we leave the MacDonald-Cartier Freeway, and head south on Provincial Highway-15 along the eastern shore of the Cataraqui River to our destination, the Rideau Marina. Thanks to GOOGLE MAPS and GOOGLE EARTH, we have street level details, and finding the marina is no problem. We descend a rather steep hill from the shoreline bluff to the water. It is 7 p.m., and after a 10.5-hour drive, we have arrived. Next order of business: launch the boat.
Chris, our trip planner, has carefully researched the Kingston area for a launching spot, a place to leave our truck and trailer for a week, a good shower and bath facility, and available overnight docking. This combination was hard to find, and Rideau Marina was the only place to have all these requirements. Chris has been in telephone contact with them, made reservations, and they are expecting us.
Many years of trailer boating have taught us to carefully inspect all launching ramps prior to using them. We park the rig and walk over to see the launch facility. Our initial reaction is not favorable. The ramp is broken concrete and scattered with a lot of stones from the gravel parking lot. The concrete portion extends just barely to the water, and most of the ramp under water is just gravel and river bottom. The ramp is filled with weeds, algae, and debris--so much so that we can barely see through the greenish water to gauge the depth. This is not the beautiful, well-maintained, deep, concrete ramps in crystal clear Great Lakes water we are accustomed to using.
Rideau Marina is just swinging into full-time boating season and longer hours. The marina managers have left for the day, and the only employee on the premises is a young fellow running the gas dock operation. It is his first day on the job, too. We make his acquaintance and ask him about the boat launch, particularly all the muck in the water. He's a polite young fellow, and he volunteers to clean out the launch ramp for us. With a long-handled rake, the muck, weeds, and algae are slowly dragged from the ramp, revealing the river bottom and a relatively shallow descent. We prepare the boat for launching. It is a good idea to let the wheels, brakes, and bearings cool off from the highway, anyways, so there is no big rush. Although the truck tires slip and skid on the loose stones of the ramp, the launch goes fine, and the boat slides off the trailer without the slightest difficulty. We are in the water.
The next step is to start the boat's engine. The big outboard has been run briefly this season, so I am confident it will fire up. However, it has been tilted up for storage and highway travel for weeks. This usually causes the carburetors to loose some fuel, and the engine will need considerable re-priming to refill the fuel system. After careful squeezing of the primer bulb, I am ready to turn the key. The old V6 starts right up, but she seems to be running a bit rougher than normal. Perhaps one carburetor is still filling. The smokey two-stroke motor idles and shakes as she warms up. We don't have far to go--just a few feet backwards along the fuel dock adjacent to the ramp and we'll be at our destination tonight.
Speaking of fuel, the price at the gas dock for mid-grade gasoline is $1.23/liter, which translates to about $4.44/gallon in U.S. funds. That represents the all-time highest price we've seen for gasoline. We decline to add any at this time. I know we will have to buy more fuel, but I decide to add it as we go. This will avoid carrying extra weight in fuel, which might save us a gallon or two. I also have unabashed optimism of finding it cheaper along the way.
The motor soon warms enough to kick the fast-idle circuit off. We back up about 25-feet along the dock, and we are home for the night. More gear is loaded, we make pre-payments for all our marina charges, and we're ready for dinner. We find an appropriate place in the boat yard to leave our trailer, and we disconnect it from the truck. It is about 8:00 p.m., and we head up the steep hill in search of our evening meal. We don't have to go far. There is a newly opened pub right on the highway. We pull in for dinner at the BLUE MOOSE, an establishment which is so new they haven't gotten their official paperwork to start serving alcohol. The burger and fries are good, but not quite as tasty as if washed down with some of the cold Molson CANADIAN advertised on their sign boards.
After dinner we return to the boat where a couple of beers from the cooler fill in for the ones we missed at dinner and we relax in the cockpit. The weather is still fair, and the temperature comfortable. When boating, as with any activity which is essentially out of doors, we have concern about the weather ahead. We have just finished an absolutely perfect week of summer weather with days of fair skies and no rain, but how long can this hold up? It looks like we may have some rain overnight. In the cloudy western sky we see the smallest sliver of a new crescent moon about to set. In close conjunction is the extremely bright planet Venus. We'll watch this celestial meeting all week long.
The nine-day narrative continues in Day Two.
Copyright © 2007 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!
This is a verified HTML 4.0 document served to you from continuousWave
Author: James W. Hebert
This article first appeared July, 2007.