Story and Photos by Lynn and Pat Lortie

Heading Home

Adamant 1 has had an adventurous trip since returning from the Bahamas. The Intracoastal Waterway is full of twists and turns, marshland, shallow water and spectacular scenery. It has been very quiet as well with little boat traffic. We pulled into Fernandina Beach at the Florida-Georgia border. We heard it was beautiful there so we rented a car and toured all day. Sadly, we got caught in a tropical depression that lasted for two days with sustained winds of 80 km/h.

Once the storm abated, we headed north again. Georgia doesn’t have much to offer except marshland. We did, however, see wild horses walking the beach on Cumberland Island. We also spent two glorious days cycling around Jekyll Island. What a resort area that must have been in its heyday!

We continued our tour of the south by exploring Charleston, South Carolina. We did the walking tour of the historic section and spent a day touring the Yorktown, a retired aircraft carrier. For anyone interested in warships, the Yorktown has been kept to museum standards and is an amazing ship to tour.

Our next stop was Georgetown. There we did the real tourist thing. We visited a plantation house, took the trolley tour and did the walking tour. The town boasts a live oak tree that is reputed to be 700 years old, has a circumference of 35’ and is 185’ tall. That means it was there when Christopher Columbus came ashore!

Our next visit was to Wrightsville where the seafood was fabulous and the West Marine store handy. The water was very shallow, so we had to be on guard all the time and keep the cruising guide handy. That being said, we had some really gorgeous anchorages here. Some nights we were alone, other nights we had company. One night, we were treated to an air show as the air base was only two miles away. Every type of aircraft came and went that evening, including the Osprey, that takes off and lands like a helicopter, but when airborne, the rotors tilt forward so it becomes a prop plane.

Next up – beautiful Beaufort, North Carolina, was where we spent three days touring, walking and relaxing. We visited the museum twice, shopped and dined. It was a great place for some down time. A lot of the homes in this town were built in the mid-1700s and have been carefully restored (at great expense I should add).

Back on Adamant I, we actually managed to do some sailing. There were some long open water passages and it was nice to get the sails up.

North Carolina was especially pretty, with gorgeous homes along the waterfront and colourful flowers everywhere; even the lilacs were in bloom. The great thing about travelling north in April and May is that you follow spring up the coast! Our next city stop was Elizabeth City. We spent two days at a free town dock and were treated by the town to a wine and cheese party our first night there. On Friday night we were able to get tickets to a local theater group’s production of Harvey. Elizabeth City certainly goes out of its way to make visitors feel right at home.

Then it was off to the Dismal Swamp, which, by the way, was anything but dismal. It was beautiful, peaceful, quiet and green. The greenery came right down to the banks into the water. For most of the 22 miles, the channel was only 40’ wide. Thankfully we only met one small boat heading south. Here the controlling depth is six feet and speed is limited to six knots, so the big boats don’t like to do the "ditch" which is fine with us sailors. The next day took us through the final lock and down into Norfolk, Virginia. Then it was a free-for-all,  from silence and birdcalls to mayhem and madness. It was midday Sunday and it was hot and sunny. There was every type of floating craft on the water from Sea-Doos to warships and freighters, tugs, barges and cruisers. We didn't linger.

When we left Norfolk, we were technically in the Chesapeake. But for cruising purposes we still had a couple of days of travelling to get to the cruising grounds. Our first stop was Deltaville. It was a very quiet town, so quiet in fact, that we didn’t even go to shore. The next day we took a mooring ball at a marina in Solomans and borrowed bikes to do some exploring. It is another quiet place with loads of marinas and good shopping. We biked to the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center  – a 30-acre outdoor art museum where trails wind through the trees and showcased a variety of themed outdoor sculptures.

From Solomons, we headed east to St. Michaels on Tilghman Island. We have friends that live there who came and picked us up, gave us a tour of the area and, thankfully, we found somewhere to get our propane tanks filled. Then they took us to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The museum builds replica boats and restores old ones. We wanted to go back the next day but the winds were so high we couldn’t leave the boat.

Our next stop was Annapolis. We took a guided walking tour of the Naval Academy, the historic downtown area and the Senate building. The Naval Academy architecture was stunning. Inside the dormitory was a masterpiece of marble and intricate carvings. Below the massive Naval Academy church is the crypt of John Paul Jones, the man who set up the navy as we know it. It is an incredible marble monument designed to look like he was buried at sea. The marble below the sarcophagus is carved to look like waves with dolphins riding the waves. We were so much in awe that we forgot to take pictures!

We left the next day, headed into the C&D Canal for the night and crossed to Cape May, New Jersey the next day. We were hoping to finally get to sail from Cape May to New York City, but the wind gods took the day off and we motored the whole way to Sandy Hook on a flat calm ocean.

One sailing rule is never to enter an unknown harbour  in the dark. We had so far held fast to that rule, but the very first time we had to break it was heading into New York Harbor. What a blaze of lights at 2:00 a.m. We took a mooring ball at Atlantic Highlands and sat out a gale the entire next day.

When the weather cleared, we took the high-speed ferry in to tour New York City. We popped into Central Park just to say we’d been there. It was green, clean, quiet and very lush. We did the walking tour of the Times Square area and took yet another "Hop On, Hop Off" trolley tour. We visited Ground Zero; it was a very sobering and emotional experience. We also rode the elevators to the top of the Empire State Building.

We visited a decommissioned aircraft carrier and a Concord airplane. When we were boarding the Concord, we met a charming British couple. Ironically, he was a member of the design team and she worked as a labourer in the factory where they were built so we got personally guided tour of the plane.

The trip from New York City to Ontario was mostly uneventful. The Hudson River was broad, deep, free from commercial traffic but, sadly, full of debris. The Catskill Mountains peaks rose to over 1300’ right beside the river. Along both shorelines were rail lines; passenger trains ran on the east side and freight trains ran on the west. It was amazing to see them run so close to shore while at the same time skimming the edge of the mountains. We had trains next to our anchorages almost every night.

West Point was the highlight of the Hudson River. We went past on May 22nd, which happened to be graduation day there. We saw President Obama’s helicopter arrive surrounded by mean-looking military choppers…very official. We passed by a rundown castle that was built as a munitions storehouse and was never inhabited. Apparently, the State of New York has purchased it and they are planning to have it restored.

At Hop-O-Nos Marine, we had our mast stepped. The workers there really know what they are doing; the mast was down and secured in 20 minutes! We headed north and entered the Erie Canal at Troy. We were officially back in fresh water. The locks were easy to handle and the canal was picturesque and peaceful.

The Oswego Canal was an easy run and we set ourselves up to cross Lake Ontario. We waited one day and got the weather window we wanted. We rolled around a bit because the mast was on deck, but it was only 30 miles across. We searched the shoreline for the lighthouse on the point and we were overjoyed to see a giant Canadian flag flying beside it! We were home. We still had over 300 miles to go to be in our home waters, but that Canadian flag meant we had made it all the way!

It was good to be back in Canada. We had a terrific time in Kingston…sight seeing, shopping, and dining with Pat’s cousin and his wife. Then we headed to Gananoque to visit the 1000 Islands for a few days. We moved on to Picton for a day and then to Trenton to start the last leg of our journey

Some of the locks on the Trent Severn Waterway are close together, so some days we got through seven of them, other days only three. There are two sets of flight locks and two lift locks.

A flight lock is two locks joined together so that when you exit the first one, you are entering the second, continuing the lift. A lift lock is actually a big tub filled with water, with an identical tub beside it. As one tub goes up, the other goes down. Peterborough’s lift lock is 65’ and Kirkfield is 47’. The whole trip up or down is done in about three minutes. But then there is the marine railway at Big Chute. Adamant was loaded onto a rail car while still in the water and slings were placed under her. She rested on her keel for the 5-minute trip up and over the hill while the slings held her in place. I couldn’t look over the front into the drop below, but Pat took a ton of pictures for us.

We had been told that the waterway was shallow and weedy; we found a few places at five feet but we only got fouled in the weeds a couple of times; we were lucky. Most nights we stayed at lock walls, many of them in towns. The locks shut down at 4:00 p.m. so we had plenty of time to tour and get to know our fellow travellers. We tended to stay with the same group most of the way up the system. Our daughter, son-in-law and two small grandsons met us at Lakefield to help us do the last 150 miles of the trip. It was wonderful to have them aboard. Our son Darren and his family held down the fort at home and kept us informed of the excitement about the tornado that had just hit Midland – our final destination.

On June 27th, we went through our last lock at Port Severn and headed into Georgian Bay. Darren and his family met us in his boat with Pat’s sister and husband aboard. We closed the Great Loop at exactly noon, in the rain, but we hardly noticed. We had plenty of well-wishers to meet us and it felt great to be home.

We enjoyed our 9500 nautical mile trip south and we feel blessed that we were able to do the trip when we did. We saw so much, experienced more and met some of the greatest people…some will be friends for life.

We could never have done it without Adamant 1, our summer home on the water. She stood up to all that we put her through and came out smiling, happy to be carrying us on our quest. She could probably have held out a lot longer than her crew. She was stable, comfortable, held everything we could cram into her and still left us with tons of room to live. She never complained, worked tirelessly and never let us down. She came home with some war wounds, the result of encounters with dock pilings and lock walls, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a new coat of paint.

She’s a grand lady and we are proud to own her. So here’s to you Adamant 1, we love you. Thanks for the memories.

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 - Adamant I tied to the dock at the visitors’ centre in the Dismal Swamp Canal
Photo 2 - Calvert Marine Museum has one of the last screw pile lighthouses restored to full glory.
Photo 3 - The Dismal Swamp Canal, straight as an arrow for 22 miles
Photo 4 - Pat and Lynn in Times Square, NYC
Photo 5 - Loads of pelicans greeted us at every bridge along the ICW.
Photo 6 - The Erie Canal resembled Venice in some places with its towns bordering the river
Photo 7 - Inside the first of the flight locks in the Trent Severn Waterway


Read The Great Loop Part 1

Read the Great Loop Part 2