Brockville Tall Ships Festival ‘22

“I would go to sea with you”, is about the greatest compliment you can give. That’s the kind of friends Monica and Rob have become over the past 7 years. We pushed off from Gananoque Marina around 4pm and headed east anchoring in the Navy Islands. It was a very quiet night by Stave Island as we were the only boat there. We had a leisurely breakfast the next morning, but then had to clear a fair bit of weed off the anchor before we could get under way. We had also picked up weeds on the prop or keel, and after reversing a few times the engine exhaust still had that all to suspicious throaty sound and some grey exhaust fumes which is usually a sign, the old Volvo Penta is working too hard and running too hot. Over the years you get to know if your engine doesn’t sound right. We drifted in the open water and Rob offered to dive under to see if the engine through hull was blocked. After a brisk dive in the still cool waters he reported that all looked well down there. The water strainer also looked fine. We continued on but still, there just wasn’t enough water coming out the exhaust, so we anchored just before Fiddler’s Elbow – we did not want to loose the engine and steerage while going through the strong current just before the Ivy Lea Bridge. Next, we checked the impeller – all good; some small weeds in the water strainer, but not enough to warrant our problem; then Dave discovered weeds stuck in the water intake hose before the strainer, which he was able to pull out, and that did the trick.

Rob and Monica

Four hours later we were anchored east of Skelton Island by Brockville. We were worried that we would have to squeeze into a packed anchorage but it turned out that we were the only boat behind Skelton Island. However, a channel runs past that anchorage creating a stream of constant boat traffic – from the SeaFox tour boat to jet skies, to kayaks and even a hover craft. Skelton Island is a marked anchorage and no one seemed to mind that we were there, but be aware that the locals use this as their promenade route behind the Brockville city islands, out of the current.

Regina and Monica after talking to ”Officer Smith”

It was easy to take our dinghy over into the Tall Ships Landing, Brockville Harbor. It was Friday afternoon and all the ships were either moored at the dock or getting ready to head out for the parade. Lot’s of people were milling about and we were not sure if we were actually allowed to tie up our dinghy at the launch dock. We asked the police boat that was just leaving. A very friendly officer told us that it was totally fine. We made sure to ask his name as he seemed very nonchalant about the whole affair. “Officer Smith” he replied, with a grin, while covering up his name tag. We laughed and all weekend we kept running into him we made sure to address him as Officer Smith. The joke never seemed to get old.

I was born in Northern Germany on the Baltic Sea, and from early childhood on I had been spoiled by huge “Windjammer Parades” during the Kieler Week. Tall Ships from all over the world would gather for a week of tours, regattas, displays, concerts and other events. Compared to that The Tall Ship Festival in Brockville is rather small, but it’s still a really fun event with activities for all ages. During the parade the boats all sailed by and some (Fair Jeanne from Brockville) even fired their little cannons to the audiences delight.

Saturday and Sunday one could do deck tours, which were a little disappointing. We were told that due to Covid restrictions the public could only literally tour the deck and could not go below. The line-ups were incredible especially for the larger boats like Empire Sandy and Nao Trinidad. After a half hour line up to get onto the first boat we decided to just walk along the Landing and view the ships from land which was just as fun. That gave us time to explore Brockville a little as well. What a great town. We walked through the Old Railway Tunnel – an especially rewarding experience on a hot day and then back through downtown to the Thousand Island Brewing Company for a tasty lunch and beverage.

Saturday evening we enjoyed a concert by Sean McCann – The Shantyman. He even played some of the old fav’ from his “Great Big Sea” days like “Mari-Mac” and “Pat Murphy”.

The Brockville waterfront also impressed us with its numerous city owned islands, open for public use. Just like the Thousand Islands National Park, these are reservable, and have campsites, picnic shelters and docks for mooring. We had a lot of fun exploring some of them with our Oru kayaks, manuvering through some of the strong currents and eddies between the islands. It’s busy with all kinds of boat and watercraft traffic, but there are also traffic cops on jet skis that stop people who speed. What a splendid idea!

I should mention a couple more highlights of the weekend. One was meeting CCGS “Mamilossa”, one of the 2 Hover Craft stationed in Trois-Rivières up close and personal. The first day we were anchored we noticed a loud jet like noise just past our anchorage and saw water spraying across the bay as if by a large wind turbine. We then saw the 28.5m long Mamilossa leaving the bay coming towards us. The captain seemed to reconsider and changed course to go south around Skelton Island instead of right through our anchorage. We watched with awe as the almost prehistoric looking vehicle slid by in a cloud of spray. Well, that was exciting, but not quite as exciting as the next morning when during our pancake breakfast the captain of Mamilossa decided that our boat was not going to leave this anchorage any time soon and he would glide right through between us and Skelton Island. Wow – what a sight, we thought would all be blown of the boat or at least dowsed with the spray off the sides, but other than the loud noise we only felt a tiny little bit of wind. Whoever was steering this thing, really knew what they were doing! Each morning and evening the hovercraft passed by to be beached at Saint Lawrence Park.

CCGS Mamilossa

We toured the hovercraft on Sunday, and met the Captain in person. He was quite friendly when he learned we were the occupants of Vitae whom he passed by each day. Apparently the standing wave that the hovercraft makes is most useful for breaking ice. It’s also used for setting buoys in very shallow water. He explained that the 4 engines on board were 1000 horsepower each, and that he has broken up ice 46 inches thick. He also admitted that they store 16,000 Liters of Diesel fuel on board, as they burn 800 Liters per hour operating those big engines.

Frank and Marie-Claude

Another highlight was our meet-up with Frank and Marie-Claude from Komeekha. You can read how we met them last summer in the North Channel. We had stayed in touch over the winter. David and Frank exchanging ideas about the new Raymarine Chartplotter installation and other improvements Komeekha had made to get ready for her big voyage out the Saint Lawrence and south. They had come all the way from their home port Owen Sound, and we really wanted to see them on their way through the Thousand Islands. They arrived around 2pm and quite expertly anchored beside us. It was so great to see them and wish them well. We had a fabulous dinner with all 6 of us on board chatting about their travels so far, comparing notes on equipment and preparation and what route they are planning to take. Rob and Monica have done the trip out the St. Lawrence and south before so they had lots of useful advice for Frank and Marie-Claude as well. We would have talked all night but eventually they had to get to bed as they were going to go through Iroquois lock the next day. We hugged them good bye and will be following their journey closely, as we intend to sail south next year as well.

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