Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Cruise on the Credit River without sinking!

What a grand day we had today! Beautiful sun, sparkling (fairly) clear water, friends and boats - who could ask for more!

For years I have been curious about the possibility of using rowboats on the river behind us. We see lots of canoes, kayaks and recently tubes but no rowboats. So we decided to test the matter.

We hauled out one of the skiffs built at Ontario Place by the girls from Big Sisters back in 1999 and Scott brought his skiff along which is from the same group. Our team was MB, George, Bernie C and Scott. Mike L drove the chase/photography truck.

Start point was at Heritage Rd and King Rd in Terra Cotta....

MB, Bernie C., Scott, George

to the Credit River at King Rd and Heritage Rd

this skiff not so pretty

ready to go, hardly leak at all...

So we are in the river and it is moving pretty fast but not dangerously so.

Takes a few minutes to work out the best method of propulsion and who is going to do what. In our boat it becomes clear that Bernie is a skilled "River Reader" from years of kayaking on the prairies. The river is moving us along at about 5mph so there is little point in rowing for speed but there is for steering.

Here we are passing the Terra Cotta Inn where the water is pretty flat. One thing we found was that in both the flat and rough stretches there can be big boulders randomly strewn along the bottom of the river.

What the?

beautiful sailing on the Credit

From the river everything looks new and different. When we stop rowing and paddling we are flowing along in silence, It is really lovely out there.

Mike waits for us.

A brief rest stop just above the 10 Sideroad Bridge where George spread out in the sun.

bumping over the old dam at St Alban's

Over and under, over the old dam beside St. Albans then under the bridge and past that beautiful barn on the left.

last bridge and over to the bank at the ball park
pretty much all the damage.
So a great adventure was had, which we are determined to repeat on fair days until the water level makes it impossible for rowboats. We'll add rowing positions at the back of the boats so load is more evenly spread out and a passenger can sit in the middle seat.

If you wish to join us on one of these impromptu outings - let us know! If you are not one of our volunteers a little donation might be in order!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Notes From Down Under...

And I don't mean Australia!

On the 14th of March my brother Les arrived for the final step in preparing for our departure of the 15th - loading the truck and hooking up the trailer. It didn't work out quite like that however - the boat engine still wasn't running properly. The team were there trying to solve the problem. It would start, run for a few seconds then quit. Eventually we removed the carbs and discovered that the throttle diaphragms were in backwards. Corrected that and then...

I was reinstalling the middle fuel banjo bolt and cross-threaded the middle carb fitting - screwed! That was it for Sunday, we couldn't leave until a set of used carbs were found.

Monday AM I was on the computer searching for a set of triple Solex carbs from about 1968 and finally found some - in Calgary and Californina. More searching until I found a set in Maryland! By 10 AM we had a deal and it was time to hit the road only 4 hours late.

As we were about to pull out of the driveway Gretchen came out to bid us goodby and says "should the truck be making that noise?" I opened my door and said "actually - no". So off down the raod intending to drop into Halton Tire and my chum John to see what was going on. I found out at the first stop sign. Power booster for brakes and steering is not working.

Wrestling that truck into town with no power assist is a full body workout! But they pulled a miracle and had the power booster, tensioner and belt all replaced by 6 PM! We were on our way.

Now you may be wondering why there are no pictures of all this. Stay tuned.

By 3 PM Tuesday we were in Annapolis MD picking up the Solex carb set from "Jimmy" and carrying on down the road in 20C weather! However, late afternoon on I 95 South out of DC is pretty much like the 401 at the same time so we got off at Fredricksburg for a lovely dinner - after listening to a pipe band IN a pub! After all it was St Patrick's Day...

I had contacted Guy Marvin III in Florida to advise him of our setbacks and ask if he could point us to a good ole marine mechanic there who could sort out the triple carb setup. He put us on to Lamb's Yacht Centre in Jacksonville not far from the hotel the River Cruise members would be staying in. 7:30 Thursday morning we were on the spot and Richard put us in the care of  Curtis who had her running like a top in less than three hours.

Next move was into the water at the Florida Yacht Club - one of the oldest in North America. We decided to let her soak up a bit before going for a run and just keep an eye on the pumps etc while enjoying the Club which overlooks Jacksonville Harbour - beautiful view! Later in the afternoon some buddies from previous cruises showed up (Mike and Ralph) and party time ensued! By 9:30 PM it was time to head to the hotel but we thought we'd better check the pumps again. Oops - boat's a bit low in the water.

I had already changed the float switch on the bilge pump and it seemed to be OK but now I found that the pump was running but not pumping. Soooo out of the water for the night and back to the hotel. Next morning I ran up to Lamb's again and bought a new pump, two check valves and a "Y" fitting. By noon I had the new pump in and both pumps plumbed into one outlet and we were ready for the water again.

This time everything worked perfectly and the boat had pretty well "took up" so the pumps didn't have much to do any longer. Off to Doctor's Lake and at the top end to Whitey's Fish Camp Restaurant a really cool and hopping joint with mostly outside but under cover eating. Following this we ran to Jacksonville and tooled under some of the many bridges including having a train go right over our heads!

Monday is departure day for the St John River Cruise event and it was overcast and a bit windy. The little Greavette just loves the rough water, it's bottom design is almost a deep vee and unlike the Shepherds and Hunter - it comes down soft and dry in rough water.

Lunch was up a creek to the Outback Crab Shack where the plates are trays loaded with seafood! An amazing if somewhat Medieval dining experience! After lunch it was back tothe river, through a downpour that left the shoreline a faint outline, back into the sun and on to Palatka where we stay for the first two nights. More good food and good company!

Day 2 is a side trip up Dunn's Creek to Crescent Lake and Crescent City where a fabulous BBQ lunch is ready. Dunn's Creek is pretty cool for boater's as much of it can be run at speed even though it winds around like a snake. We slowed for fishermen and enjoyed the novel communities along the first part of the creek. Only bad news was - no alligators (too chilly).

Day 3 we are back on the river heading to Welaka after a scenic slow run through the Seven Sisters Islands in company with several other Canadian boats (Rich and Chris). Lunch at Shrimp R Us is always a wonderful buffet and this year was no exception. The town of Welaka is one of those Live Oak/Spanish Moss filled scenes that could happen nowhere else. Following lunch we followed another group who intended to visit Silver Glen Spring off Lake George. This looks like a river but only goes a few hundred yards off the lake to a pool with a 10' hole in the bottom where 40 million gallons of spring-water a day come up out of the ground - you can see it welling up at the surface.

At least 6 of our boats rafted up in the waterway next to the spring and all the Canadians jumped into the 72 degree water! Sun was out, it was very warm and we swam right across the spring outlet - not easy against the current! Eventually we all piled back int the boats and headed across the Lake toward Astor.

We were bringing up the rear of a group of 5 or 6 boats when we go to the mouth of the St John. Once past the idle speed zone at the mouth the group picked up to 25 mph or so through the twisty channel. About a mile or so from Astor, our last night stop on the river, we crossed a wake and came down with a "bang!". At the time it was just like crossing a wake at the wrong angle but in a few seconds my brother pointed out that water was coming in over the forward cockpit floor and was that normal? Umm - no.

In that moment I began blowing the horn to get the attention of the boats just in front of us. One of the passengers (Helen) on Royce's Riva recognized that something was not right and had the boats turn to render assistance. Once this was happening Les handed me a jacket out of the new bag of life jackets and we got them on. Once this was done we began packing everything loose into the bags we had on board so by the time our rescuers arrived we could ass this tuff up out of our boat which was quickly filling by the stern.

As the last gear was passed off we were hanging from the coamings of the Riva as our boat went out from under us. I was hauled into the Riva and Les was hauled into Rich's Greavette. Next up popped the seats and the few things we hadn't got that float - unfortunately my phone didn't float - which is why there are no pictures!

It is a bizzare sensation to realize the boat you are in is sinking. And even more so when it actually makes good on the threat.

I would like to thank Royce and his crew, Rich & Linda, Paul and Chris in their boats who came to the rescue. Plan B in this case involved running on alligators heads to an uncertain shore so we were really very relived that it was Plan A that worked!

We had the boat salvaged including the rescue of the engine and were able to pick it up on the way home the following Sunday. There is a 4" x 10" hole punched in the bottom of the boat at the first frame with clear evidence that we landed on something that was unseen in the black water - in the channel! Kathy R suggested we should claim it was an alligator to improve the story - but - not likely!

The rest of our trip was really great - the boating part courtesy of friends in the hobby so thanks to them!

For me there were a few discoveries which were interesting because no-one was hurt.

1. A lifetime of incident free boating is not a prediction of the future.

2. I had removed the 20 year old life-jackets and put in a bag of new horseshoe type life-preservers. Perfect! Except for the small details. When Led handed me the preserver we both stood there wasting time undoing the knot that held the straps "tidy", undoing the strap, sliding the buckle out to the end BEFORE we could put them on and do them up!

3. the boat horn had been tested before we left along with every other system on the boat but we were following a fleet of high powered inboards and they couldn't hear the horn. It was a visual crew sighting that saved our (Canadian?) bacon! Had I taken along one of the portable air horns we have for boats without horns - they would have heard that!

So that's my tale for today! Les and I had a great time, met great people and had interesting conversations!

Who's up for the ACBS St John River Cruise 2016? I've got room - Les's not allowed to go!

Oh, and while my pictures are at the bottom of the St John River, Chris and Julie Bullen created this wonderful slide show of the cruise! Load this link:

Post TIBS in the Boatshop

Although the TNT was very presentable for TIBS, it really wasn't ready for the water. The Scott engine is an unknown and the boat came set up for OMC power. Peter pulled out an Evinrude 40 which should make the boat go - so his team has been working on that. Meanwhile Bernie has been leading the controls and interior finish team.

Jim attacks the carburetor - or vice-versa...
Bernie and the snakes.

and then there's Mad George!

Also meanwhile we had decided to refinish most of the Richardson Aqua Craft cedar strip and she has had many hands on her so far.

nothing like a sharp scraper.

Did I say "hands"?
Steve and George enjoying a RibFest

the rack we created transformed the process

 Then once it came down to just two participants (MB and brother Les Black) going on the St John River Cruise, the big Shepherd was not an option and our 16' Greavette 1968 "SunFlash" was pulled out of 7 years storage for a freshening up. Carbs needed to be rebuilt for sure and varnish also needed a few coats as well as full service.

JJ gets at the Volvo AQ170 engine
Scot tackles the wheel bearings.

George handled re-fastening

Steve polished the hardware

Sean and Devrim sand the decks out

Anton handles minor filling spots

 This began 3 weeks before the projected departure date of Mar 15! A bit of a scramble but teamwork brought it all together - almost.

Then there was TIBS, (Toronto International Boat Show)

that was in January of course and all the work accomplished by our volunteers really paid off. Our results in fundraising, new volunteers, offers of assistance and donation of boats and artifacts was wonderful - up from previous year by 20%.

The booth strategy was to feature the components of the new Boats 4 Folks programme which will include kids sailing our restored Lightning "Bolt" and getting out in our new Mini-Hopper sea fleas.
view from the east booth entrance
View from the west end booth entrance

demonstrating the TossNSave resulted in lots of sales.

This demo worked too...

restored TNT was a hit!

Hopper Racing Team - youth programme boats

All in all a great outing and many thanks to TIBS management Team for having us there!