Posts Tagged ‘Lake Erie’

Bathymetry map of Lake Ontario

Bathymetry map of Lake Ontario

July 14th, 2013, at 11:20 AM, Stephen launched his canoe onto Lake Ontario. During previous summers he has circumnavigated Lakes Huron, Michigan and Erie, in that order. Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes in circumference, but much deeper than Lake Erie. Water from the four other lakes flows through the Niagara River and over the Niagaran Escarpment before entering Lake Ontario, so the lake is more than 300 feet lower than Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie. From Lake Ontario, the water flows through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean.

Stephen has done a lot of paddling along the islands and ridges of the Niagaran Escarpment on Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Stephen has done a lot of paddling along the islands and ridges of the Niagaran Escarpment on Lakes Huron and Michigan.

On the beach at Four Mile Creek State Park preparing Seaweed, the canoe, for departure.

On the beach at Four Mile Creek State Park preparing Seaweed, the canoe, for departure.

Four Mile Creek State Park is only a few miles from the mouth of the Niagara River, where historic Fort Niagara is open to visitors. We spent a day as tourists before he began his summer of paddling. This building, built by the French in the early 1700’s, is the oldest building still standing in the Great Lakes area.

The French castle at Fort Niagara

The French castle at Fort Niagara

Much too soon, it was time to say goodbye. Here is a parting shot of Stephen before he paddled away to the east. Bon voyage!

Day one on Great Lake number four

Day one on Great Lake number four






Sleeper Cell

Author: Stephen

50 miles from Buffalo


Wind bound again. Pulled into Barcelona, NY, yesterday afternoon, on a 15 mph following wind. Weather radio called for more high winds, so decided to lay up. This section of coast is lined with 50 foot bluffs, and doesn’t offer many chances to get off if Erie acts up. I paddled around the little village’s break wall into a marina, and tied up along an old steel retaining wall, right in front of what turned out to be a kayak launch site. Waded ashore, asked around a bit, and was directed to Cameron, who runs the marina. His face and body language are that of someone immediately recognizable as kind and patient, and true to form he said it would be fine if I set up the tent behind “Spectrum,” a 45-foot cabin cruiser perched on blocks just a few feet from where Seaweed is tied up. No charge.


Mary wants to get back on the water, too.


I’ve had three meals at the two restaurants up the street, am getting dangerously close to finishing “The Plague of Doves” by Louise Erdrich, and otherwise have been lazily watching kids with fishing rods come and go, with and without fish. The marina has a gentle disarray and nautical clutter, with several dry-docked vessels, including an old fishing boat undergoing a hopeful restoration. A family sits at a picnic table, speaking Spanish. There’s a sign at the beach that says “State Law Forbids Swimming Unless Lifeguard in Attendance” adding, “No Lifeguard Here.” Lots of people go swimming , including me.


The water clarity has greatly improved since I entered Pennsylvania, and appears even better here in New York. The warmth of the water is striking; it’s been in the high 60’s to 80’s the whole trip. The daytime air temperature has been from the high 70’s to over 100. The wind seems to change direction as frequently as the minute hand on my watch. There have been a couple of impressive thunderstorms, but it’s mostly been very dry. Only had dew on the tent one night. Hardly any mosquitos!


Barcelona Harbor


Speaking of the tent, so far the Tarptent has been wonderful (unless you’re a gear head, switch to another blog now. I recommend I’ve pitched it several times on top of the canoe, as well as on the ground. It goes up quickly, and has kept me dry through big, windy rainstorms. It only weighs 26 ounces, plus two trekking poles, and the design is brilliant. It has a sleeping area of about 7 x 3 feet, entrances on both sides, and enough vestibule space for a couple of packs, camera box and miscellaneous clutter. My only concern is the clips and zippers seem pretty light duty, but time will tell how they hold up. My new Blackbird Warbonnet camping hammock is also working well. It replaced the Hennessy Hammock that I used on my Lake Huron trip. I much prefer the side entrance of the Blackbird over the bottom entrance of the Hennessy. The strap hanging system, although heavier than Hennessy’s system, is much easier to adjust. The Big Mamajama tarp (how does Brandon, the designer, come up with these names?), which goes over the hammock, is very nice with lots of room underneath and is also easy to pitch. I adopted a sweet technique, which I learned in “The Ultimate Hang,” an excellent little book about hammock camping. Here’s a link to a description of that,


Tarptent on Seawind canoe


I just looked skyward. The cirrus clouds are really scuttling along. I’d better stop here, make sure the tent stakes are pinned tight, and cross my finger that I haven’t jinxed myself praising my nylon home away from home.

P.S. I’ve decided to stop calling my trip “non-motorized”. There’s so much negativity in the world these days. Instead it’s “self-propelled”. More positive, yes? Or, perhaps, “self-empowered”?

Fairport Harbor

Author: Stephen

Frank Fenoglio


Retired engineer and infinitely curious Frank Fenoglio, of Cleveland, met me as I was pushing off the little island in the Chagrin River I had camped on. We spent the day pushing headwinds and 2-4 foot waves on our way to Fairport, Ohio, where we met his wife, Pat. Frank disassembled his 18-foot Feathercraft kayak, then they kindly took me out to dinner. When he’s not paddling, sailing, or driving his Super 7 race car, Frank’s preparing for an upcoming 100-mile running race.


Everything must go!


Fairport sunset

A Sinking Feeling

Author: Stephen

Cuyahoga, built in 1943, on the Cuyahoga.


It’s Monday, and I called in sick. I’ve had a cough for the past couple of days, and had a hard time sleeping last night. I might have come down with a cold, or it could be from hanging out with a dozen chain-smoking fishermen for a couple of days over the Fourth (which, if that was the price, was worth it).


I left Cleveland yesterday, July 8, about 8 a.m. I spent the night there at the Riverside Rowing Facility, a big warehouse on a reclaimed industrial site about a mile up the Cuyahoga (Crooked) River. No one was there when I landed on the long, low dock, and I eventually looked up the phone number for the place. Left a message with the director requesting a place to hang my hammock, but never heard back. Since asking permission didn’t work, I figured I’d ask for forgiveness later. As the burning afternoon sun melted into the skyline above me, I watched a couple of lakers, the Cuyahoga and American Courage, eel their way up the river. They had to negotiate a very tight S-curve along the river where I was, but they took great care not to crush Seaweed against the seawall.  Around midnight, I was awakened by a tug pulling the Cuyahoga, still pointed up river, back downriver. About 4 a.m., the American Courage came backing down, too, but under her own power.


American Courage passes Seaweed on her way upriver.


I rolled out of the hammock about 6:30 a.m., just as a fit young woman rolled up one of the big warehouse doors and carried out one of those impossibly skinny rowing shells. Other rowers started to arrive, and I presented my lodging explanation to a couple of guys putting oars on a tandem shell. They said I did the right thing in waiting to ask for forgiveness.


I quickly loaded Seaweed, and pushed off into the brown, trash filled river. A highway bridge arched high me, cars unseen. Abandoned grime-black railroad bridges were covered with ivy. I turned right at the mouth of the river, and headed past large, empty piers. The week’s worth of forecasted headwinds were arriving, and I pulled into one of the massive  slips to have a quick breakfast of water and mixed nuts. Then out a quarter mile into the lake to paddle along the four-mile stone break wall that parallels the city.  By the time I reached the end of the break wall, the swells were in the four-foot neighborhood, and I headed for a cove.


There were several boat ramps and a picnic area, so I tied up and took the lunch bag over a to a picnic table. I stayed a couple of hours, waiting for the wind to settle down. As I was getting ready to leave, I went into the restroom to fill up my water bag. When I came out, a tow boat was dragging a power boat that I had seen leave the ramp with couple of guys, a woman, and two kids, shortly after I arrived.


One of the guys  was still standing in the boat, which was riding very low in the water, and rest were in the tow boat. Just as they neared the dock, the stern went under, the guy in the boat swam away, and all that was left above water was the bow. Coolers, seat cushions and assorted containers floated away. I got in the canoe and paddled out to salvage what I could. I talked with the boat owner, and he told me their engine conked out, and waves forced the boat against the rock entrance to the cove, punching a hole in the hull. We talked about the wind and waves, and as he looked down at me from the dock, he told me I had a lot of work ahead of me. I looked at his boat, barely bobbing, and said, “Looks like you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you too.”



‘Round the Camp Fire

Author: Stephen

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant just west of Sandusky, Ohio. And you thought you had NIMBY issues...


It’s almost 8 PM on July 7 and I’m waiting for the sun to go down. It’s hot, hot, hot, here on the banks of the muddy Cuyahoga. “95 degrees, feels like 112.” Feels more like 300 to me.


Been on the water, or trying to be, for two weeks. It’s been hotter than heater, with some amazing thunderstorms, but the trip’s been cool. Lots of people out on Lake Erie. Kayaks, jet skis, freighters, ferries, yachts, sailboats, and swimmers. Sport fishing boats everywhere, and they come in with coolers full. Wally Walleye is the lake mascot.


I’ve passed two nuke plants, one in Michigan and one in Ohio, and Ruth tells me that’s all of them. I’m thankful for that, as there is a restricted zone of at least a mile around them, and the wind and waves seem to be in your face at least two out of the three legs of the maneuver. The Davis-Besse plant had the added inconvenience of being located within the Camp Perry National Guard’s  “impact area,” a six-by-eight mile or so area of the lake closed down while the camp conducts target practice. The camp, near Port Clinton, claims to have the largest outdoor rifle firing range in the world. They don’t do this all the time, just when old guys in canoes are in the area. I can handle the mile-out, mile parallel to the shore, and the mile-back-in slog around the nuke buoys, but going six miles out, then eight miles, then six back? No thanks.  They block this section of the lake off from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. So I hung out a nearby marina until about 4:30 p.m., then headed out and arrived at the Impact Area buoy right at 5 p.m., and I started my trip around the nuke plant buoys. It took me a couple of hours to get around, but toward the end I had a great talk with my sister, Pamela, on the cell phone (it’s in a waterproof pouch, in my PFD, and I turn it on speaker so I can paddle and talk at the same time. Twenty-first century canoe, oh yeah.) As I neared a sandy shore shaded by tall cottonwoods, I saw an eagle lift from a limb, and herons and egrets strolled the water’s edge. I waxed poetic as I said good-bye to Pamela, and began scouting  the beach for a place to set camp. I landed, looked around, got back in the canoe and went up the beach a bit more. Then I spotted a sign that ordered “No Trespassing,” and something to the effect that unexploded ammunition might be under the sand somewhere, and you better get your ass out of there unless you wanted to lose it.


Danger on the beach


So, gingerly placing my paddle, I continued on my way, finally finding a spot a few more miles along the coast.


Tarptent's "Notch" set up on Seawind canoe, a go-anywhere shelter, on a beach composed primarily of mussel shells.


Eeek! I just surfed the net, and discovered there is  yet another nuke plant, this one about 45 miles northeast of Cleveland. Oh well, three nukes and bunch of live ammo can’t come close to the fun I had over the Fourth of July with the regulars at the Copper Kettle Marina in Beaver Park. Now those guys know how to have a blast…

Storm season

Author: Ruth

Sky over Toledo during the second wave of storms on July 1.


On June 29, 2012, the storm that knocked out power for more than 3 million people, knocked Stephen off Lake Erie. He had just paddled past Catawba Island and Marblehead in the sweltering heat, past countless marinas, but was forced to seek shelter at Cedar Point…almost underneath the roller coaster! Did you know that after the park closes, the loud rock and roll ceases, the people drive away and things finally quiet down, at about 1:30 AM you will be awakened by heavy duty cleaning machines that work all night so the next day’s revelers can dirty it up again?


View of June 29 campsite from the water, note ominous sky, as well as ubiquitous water color of western Lake Erie.


Lake Erie has been lucky for Stephen so far. Because his Spot GPS tracker failed, I traveled to the Sandusky area with a replacement unit. (Spot is working well now, follow Stephen’s progress by clicking on “Where’s Stephen Now?”)  We stayed in a hotel for a bit of relief from the heat, so the night the 70 mile per hour winds, tornado warnings and golf ball sized hail came through, Stephen was camped indoors. We were concerned that Seaweed, tied up at a nearby marina, may have been injured, but she was just wet when Stephen checked on her the next day.


Stephen stowing food in Seaweed at Mariner Village Marina on Sawmill Creek east of Sandusky. The staff there were extremely helpful. Thanks Nick, Jake and Erin!




Mylar balloon message on the shore of Lake Erie

On June 23rd, 2012, Stephen Brede embarked from the mouth of the Detroit River onto the warm, brown waters of western Lake Erie. Once again, a bald eagle soared overhead, how could one not think of that as a good omen, as well as the free breakfast our charming waiter, Brady, arranged for us at the Monroe Street Grill! Long-time friend Perry Clark met us at the launch site with camera in hand. We watched Stephen pack a summer’s worth of gear into his Seawind canoe at a DNR boat ramp that was doing brisk business. Fishing and pleasure boats were launching every few minutes. Dragonflies, herons, gulls, and terns outnumbered the fisher folk.  I would think twice about eating fish that came out of that water, but Lake Erie has the biggest fishery of the Great Lakes.

Stephen getting his feet wet on first day of attempt to paddle the circumference of Lake Erie. June 23, 2012

He’s been paddling for four days and hit the groove more quickly than the on the trips around Lake Huron (2009) and Lake Michigan (2010). There is a problem with the Spot GPS tracking device which stopped functioning in the middle of Maumee Bay. He is on the edge of a live fire zone in Lake Erie, (that’s right, artillery shooting live ammunition out into the lake,) and we wonder if there is some kind of interference with the GPS signal. We’ll know soon and will continue to try and get the link to the map (“Where’s Stephen Now?”) working again. The day of this post is Stephen’s 61st birthday. Happy Birthday, paddle man!

Dragonfly at the boat ramp.