Lake Ontario to the Thousand Islands

We left Toronto on Sunday near noon, timing our departure to pick up a westerly breeze and, with an overnight sail, arrive at Presqu’ile in the morning. The sail was uneventful, with the westerly breeze holding up but not too strong. As we passed Pickering, we sailed through the lead boats in the Lake Ontario 300 fleet and then on into the evening. We arrived right on time at the entrance to the Murray Canal at 9 a.m., passing through and into the Bay of Quinte behind picturesque Prince Edward County.

Meandering down the Bay of Quinte with hot weather and generally gentle breezes behind us was great. We stopped for a couple of nights, swam in the warm waters, and the picked up a strong breeze that carried us into Kingston.

Kingston is of course an old haunt… I spent many years at Queen’s and it’s where Glenda and I met in grad school. Many things are still very familiar, and of course as you wander around the town you also notice the differences… the dozens of wind turbines on Wolfe Island, and shops or restaurants that have closed (like the amazing Sleepless Goat coffee shop that was the site of our first date). Best of all, though, we were now close to Ottawa and for the next week we had a bunch of great visits from family and friends. First fellow sailors and friends from undergrad Sarah and Cameron came down for sail and dinner in town, and then my brother Dave and sister-in-law Tara, and their five boys joined us for an awesome sail and swim at our lunch anchorage off Wolfe Island.

Moving into the Thousand Islands was also a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. I raced lasers in the CORK regatta three times as a teenager, and as a kid, we did two sailing vacations in the area. The first was on our little Mirage 24 sailboat, Bel Ami. I’m still amazed that my parents fit themselves, the three of us boys, and our dog onto that boat for two weeks! I remember towing the boat down to Ivy Lea with my dad, then for the first week we journeyed through the Thousand Islands, taking advantage of the fact that our little boat could easily tie up to the Thousand Islands National Park finger docks. Then we dropped the mast onto the deck and spent a week motoring up the Rideau Canal to Ottawa. The trip was really memorable for me (I must have been around 10 years old), and the memories of the islands came back as we sailed through on Innisfree. The islands are busier today, however, the park docks all very full, and our Innisfree is too big for most of them anyway. So instead we found nice central anchorages and went exploring the islands and local wildlife by dinghy and kayak.

Summer was at full strength, with hot days and building humidity. We had one exciting evening when a big line of thunderstorms passed not far north of us. The lightning storm (thankfully in the distance) lasted continuously for over an hour. Our phones lit up with emergency broadcast messages for a “marine tornado warning”, which certainly raised our eyebrows and made us turn on the radar to watch for approaching squalls and to check the anchor again. Thankfully, we never had much more than some stronger wind gusts.

Reaching Gananoque, my mom, aunt, and uncle joined us for a beautiful day’s sail, anchoring off one of the National Park islands and exploring on foot after a bouncy dinghy ride to the dock. And in Brockville my brother Geoff and sister-in-law Amy arrived with their two kids. The current made for more difficult sailing conditions, but we tucked into one of the islands at anchor for a great lunch, hike, and swim. We’ve obviously talked a lot with family about our adventure and shown many pictures of the boat, but it was really nice to have them all come down and experience, if even for a day, what we’re up to. As we sailed off again downriver, I couldn’t help but look forward to December when we hope to fly back to Ottawa (from the Caribbean!) and to see them all again.