The trip up the Detroit River was as good as we could have hoped for, considering we were running straight off a jerry can to avoid dirty fuel, clogged lines and filtering issues! This meant one of us being on hand to charge down the companionway to hold the jerry can every time a freighter or recreational power-boat caused us to wobble in their wake. And there were lots of both!
Also, our bad engine rattle persists at higher speeds so we dare not go faster than 1800 RPM…pretty darn slow. The good news was the weather – calm and sunny with enough wind to power our large genoa (foresail) and give us some much-needed oomph up river against the current. The wind died as we approached the Ambassador Bridge and our progress was painfully slow after that, but by that time we had broken the back of the long (60nm) journey from Put-in-Bay.
Along the way we relaxed and enjoyed the changing scenery, from swan sanctuary to factory alley – especially as we approached our destination – with Detroit on one side and Windsor on the other. After the expected dirty old industrial shells, Detroit looked much nicer than I expected – the huge GM HQ buildings, the arena and the downtown area all looked grand from the water. On the Canadian side, from Amherstburg to Windsor the waterfront is lovely, with many parks, beautiful homes, interesting Sculpture Gardens, and of course the Casino.
Our friend Alison greeted us at Lakeview Park Marina in Windsor, wielding a great smile and a bag of ice-cold beer. Once we had tied up securely, checked back into Canada (a much more arduous phone call than entering the US had been) and enjoyed our cockpit drink, we went to her home on the waterfront for dinner and the night… a welcome rest after long travel days and engine stress.
We returned to Toronto by train for a family get-together and medical appointments. The train travel was relaxing and pleasant. It was fabulous seeing all the family despite the rushed visit and limited time to do all we hoped to.
Back in Windsor, Alison’s hospitality and resourcefulness helped us greatly, so we made productive use of the next few days, getting our fuel polished (thanks to Al Granken from Chatham), refilling propane, re-provisioning and even exchanging Steve’s well-worn Tilley Hat for a brand-spankin’-new one (free)! Gotta love those life-time guarantees. Alison and her granddaughter Hailey came for dinner on the boat when we finally got our ‘home’ back in reasonable order.
Steve fought a losing battle with the millions of May flies (aka fish flies) which visited us in hoards in Windsor. He washed the desk off one day and they returned the next in greater numbers! They looked like snow in the street lights and carpeted all surfaces for several days.
Even when we finally left and motored across Lake St. Clair on a calm, windless day, it took me a while to register than what I thought was brown factory scum on the water was actually millions of dead insects! Lake St. Clair will for ever be etched in our memory as insect capital of Canada. We thought Lake Ontario was bad but it holds nothing on shallow Lake St. Clair. We had all sorts of bugs on us, in our hair, on our chart-plotters, glasses, books and canvas – no matter what we did to keep the plague away. I even developed a strange fondness for our resident cockpit-awning spider who did its best but I am sure had its fill without making a dint.
Friday at the marina was a hubbub of activity – recreational boaters fuelling up before streaming past Alison’s house, and police boats in and out as well. We discovered it was “Jobbie Nooner” an auspicious local event on the fourth Friday of a summer month when about 5000 people leave work at noon (most did not wait that long) to party out on Gull Island in Lake St. Clair in various forms of recreational vessels. We weren’t disappointed to have missed out on this party!
We had addressed our dirty fuel by this point but not our engine-knocking sounds so were still travelling at slow speeds heading for Bridgeview Marina in Sarnia – whom we had contacted to discuss (hopefully identify and resolve) our other engine issues – via the even longer and stronger current of the St. Clair River.
We broke the journey, anchoring in a creek just off the St. Clair River north of Walpole Island. A stinking hot day, we cooled off by jumping in the river. The current here had the advantage of having taken all the dead fish flies to Windsor – but we found we could not swim without a floating drag line or Alison would have found me floating past her house again several hours later.
After almost a week in the marina in Windsor we happy to be anchoring out again. Once the Saturday recreational boaters had left for the evening it was peaceful and lovely – a background of Redwing blackbird song from the reedy marshes beside us and a pair of swans gliding by.
We were up at dawn again to weigh anchor. A tail wind helped again and we made reasonably good time, docking in Sarnia before 3:00 pm. Once again we enjoyed the scenery along the route. We saw few signs of habitation in the first section on the Canadian side – mostly reservation land. Closer to Sarnia we hit the other-wordly-looking industrial zone of refineries etc.
The US side surprised us once again with huge homes, mile upon mile, along the waterfront. I thought this area economically depressed and am unclear of the source of prosperity in the vicinity. I also noticed a LOT of Canadian flags on our side – an unusually overt declaration of patriotic pride – almost as many as the Stars & Stripes on the opposite river bank. Perhaps people here realize what Canadians have going for us, and don’t take it for granted?