Charlotte Hamilton tends lock lines on the Erie Canal.

Charlotte Hamilton tends lock lines on the Erie Canal.

dream cruise becomes reality

Delightful delivery

When a Canadian friend asked my husband, Bob, and me to transport his 23-foot Parker pilothouse from Morehead City, N.C., to Georgian Bay, Ontario, we couldn’t pass up the chance.

In May 2008, we departed Hall Haven, N.C., and reached Coinjock Marina on the north side of Albemarle Sound in one day. The 149-mile leg was our best one-day mileage of the trip.

On a gray, overcast day in Hampton Roads, Va., the U.S. Coast Guard warned us to stay 500 yards clear of an “escorted vessel” or face “arrest and imprisonment.” We nervously looked for the aforementioned behemoth but didn’t see it. Then suddenly out of the gloom, Bob spotted a nuclear submarine being escorted to sea by several Coast Guard boats.

Throughout the Chesapeake Bay, we saw osprey nests built high on channel markers. Nearly all were occupied by two adults. We also had blue herons swooping around our boat.

In the upper Chesapeake, the Coast Guard again interrupted us, this time announcing cloud-to-ground lightning with hail passing east from Baltimore Harbor. The announcement cleared the Sunday boaters off the bay.

Entering the open Delaware Bay from the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, we saw container ships stacked for miles across the sea waiting to unload at Philadelphia, graphically illustrating the U.S. absorption of world goods.

In New Jersey, we encountered waters similar to North Carolina’s Bogue Sound but shallower and more poorly charted. Being from New Jersey, Bob wanted to see the marshland of the inside channel from Cape May to Manasquan Inlet. We spent a painful day and a half creeping through these channels, sometimes losing them. Like Bogue Sound, the water “looks” deep. I had just finished telling Bob that it was tempting to speed up and let the prop fall where it may when a boat sped toward us, hit a sandbar and stopped hard. The embarrassed crew of the grounded Army Corps of Engineers vessel waved us on by.

At New Jersey’s Manasquan Inlet, we faced the North Atlantic Ocean, as the chart on my lap called it, but first we had to make it through the inlet’s crashing waves. After the inlet, the open ocean swells seemed easy in comparison.

As we entered New York Harbor, we saw the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and passed the Statue of Liberty. That night, we stayed at a marina under the lighted Tappan Zee Bridge.

Shrouded in fog and low clouds, the 150-mile leg on the Hudson River was beautiful with a mystic atmosphere reminiscent of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which author Washington Irving set in the area.

At Troy, we entered the Erie Canal, another legend and quite a bit longer than the 15 miles that the old Erie Canal song suggests. Days before, flooding storms had spilled trees, branches and rubbish into the canal, so we had to dodge prop-grabbing obstacles and get under those low bridges.

From the Erie Canal, we entered the Oswego River and returned to our familiar Lake Ontario. We entered Canada at Trenton, Ontario, where we imported the Parker for our Canadian friend. We called customs and immigration and were told to stay put. When two officers arrived for the inspection, we humbly produced documentation of every penny spent by the owner back in Morehead City.

After passing inspection, we entered the Trent-Severn Waterway, a 240-mile series of rivers and lakes connecting Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay. A canal lift takes you 599 feet above Lake Ontario and down 261 feet to Georgian Bay. In addition to the 36 traditional locks, the waterway has two flight locks and two hydraulic lift locks. There’s also the Big Chute Marine Railway, where a huge open carriage lifts the boat on straps out of the water, across a road and down an incline into the water 57 feet below. When the equipment operators sternly told us to sit down and not get up, we obeyed.

We arrived at our cottage in Loon Bay on Saturday, 14 June and reluctantly turned over the Parker to its rightful owner the next day.

We made the 1,506-mile journey in 16 days. It was the longest boat trip we’d ever taken and our first in a powerboat.

Far fewer boats plied the waterways than in 2003, when we took a similar trip. This time, we had most canal locks to ourselves, whereas in 2003, boats of all kinds jockeyed for position, fending off one another with boat hooks. High gas prices have taken their toll.

We enjoyed the wonderful Beaufort, N.C.-made Parker pilothouse. All along the way, people commented on its appearance and fine qualities. It’s lovely to see North Carolina-built boats in the bays of Canada.