June 9-14, 2012
Our entry into Lake Champlain was calm and smooth-going – so much so, Craig and the dogs rode out on the bow for awhile. Here I go again, but I’ve got to say this is a really beautiful area. The lake is very big and very blue, with the Adirondack mountains framing the west shore and the Green Mountains of Vermont on the east.
This lake is very deep! In some places we saw depths of over 300 feet.
Our first stop was Westport, New York, on the western shore of a spot where the lake is three miles wide. So far this rates as maybe our favorite stop on the trip. The views from the harbor were fantastic – sunrise, sunset, mid-day, take your pick.
The picturesque town of Westport was just behind us, up a short hill. Because we were still early in the season, there was only one open restaurant in town, at the Westport Hotel -- really more of a B & B type of place, quaint and charming. Because the hotel is about a mile up hill from the marina, one of the owners of the hotel picked us up. We sat out on their big front porch and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. After dinner we walked through to the back porch where a really good 60s band was entertaining a crowd of locals and us. We got a ride back to the marina from the sous chef, who told us he was also the associate pastor of the old, old church in town and that he would be preaching the next morning. We told him we’d be there!
The next morning, Craig and I had a quick breakfast at a bakery/coffee shop before Stephen and Charlotte joined us for the short walk to the church. It was a federated Methodist, Baptist, non-denominational church, with a small congregation of very friendly people. In the morning announcements the sous chef/pastor explained how he had met us and a little bit about the trip we were taking. We were warmly welcomed.
After church, we packed lunches and took our dinghies for a 10 mile ride along and across the lake to a state park on Button Bay. The lake was like glass and it was a perfect day for a dinghy ride. We had a lot of fun, and we were very glad we had decided to spend a second day in Westport.
Our next stop was Vergennes, VT, a fairly short trip across the lake and then up the 7-mile Otter Creek. The creek is narrow and twisty, and there are numerous small docks and fishing boats,so the going is slow. There were lots of bird sightings along the way. These pictures were taken by Stephen on Jackets II. Shows what you can do with a really big lens! We saw nesting ospreys again. You don’t want to mess with this mom and pop!
And several blue herons followed us, of course!
At the end of the creek’s navigable waters is the town of Vergennes and an impressive set of waterfalls. Jackets and Blue Heron tied up to the city dock and once again we were the only ones there.
We enjoyed a walk into the town and found things to keep us busy all afternoon. The library was having a book sale that Charlotte wanted to check out, and what a gem that building turned out to be! It has a two-story center atrium capped by an enormous domed stained glass window.
Vergennes is another important site in American naval history, too. The very spot where we docked was where Commodore McDonough oversaw the building of the ships he used to defeat the British on Lake Champlain in the War of 1812. Some of the original mill buildings were right next to our boat and have been converted to attractive private homes.
After a great dinner at the Black Sheep restaurant, we enjoyed the rest of the evening sitting on our flybridge watching the falls. Another memorable stop!
After Vergennes, we continued up to Burlington, VT, a city we had enjoyed very much when we visited a few times over 20 years ago. There was a brisk wind on the lake as we cruised north, but it was from the south, so the ride wasn’t too rough. However, when we pulled into the marina – Burlington Municipal Boatyard – we had strong crosswinds that made docking very difficult. In fact, we were not able to get into the first very tight slip they suggested. They put us at the end of the t-dock which was easy to tie up to, but not as well protected, so we had a bit of a rocky afternoon.
But once we were tied and settled, we joined 20 Buck$, who had been in Burlington for a few days already, and Jackets, who arrived shortly after we did, and walked into town for lunch. I remembered from years ago that the main street had a lot of restaurants and shops, but it has really blossomed since then. The street is now a pedestrian mall for several blocks. We were amazed at how busy the many outdoor restaurants were on a Tuesday afternoon in early summer! Unlike the many struggling towns we had passed through recently, it looks like Burlington is booming! Nice to see. There is a wonderful youthful energy in this town, helped probably by the presence of the University of Vermont, but you get the feeling the whole population is out and about, walking and riding bikes. And the flagship Ben & Jerry’s is there!
After lunch, Craig and Stephen went off in search of the West Marine and Verizon stores to take care of some last minute preparations for Canada. I went grocery shopping at an interesting coop store and enjoyed seeing all the earth-mothers and dads shopping with their toddlers, looking for tofu and organic sprouts. The hippie influence is still alive and well in Burlington!
The next morning we took the dogs for a long walk along the waterfront and ended up having breakfast outside at a creperie near the harbor. It turned out to be yellow lab central! In addition to Joey and Bailey, there was another female who had some words for us when we first arrived, but was quiet after that, our server’s stories of her two at home, and then an adorable 8-week-old pup who showed up soon after we did. I’m happy to report that all were curious but very well-behaved.
Personally, I could have enjoyed another day hanging around in Burlington, but the consensus of the group was that it was time to move on to Canada. so the next morning we departed. Jackets and 20 Buck$ went through the border, dealt with Customs and tied up to an old dock on an island a few miles up the Richelieu River. Craig and I (mostly I) felt we still had some prep work to do to get ready for Canada, so we opted for a marina in Rouses Point, NY, right on the border. It was a good stop – we were able to borrow the courtesy car and stock up on groceries and got a few loads of laundry done. We also met Loopers Ralph and Celeste on Say Good-Bye. Ralph learned boating from a father who was a mechanical engineer and a tugboat captain, and Ralph was a great source of information about anything boat and/or Looping related. Very nice people, too!
By the next morning, we had all our border-crossing paperwork together for the boat, for us and for the dogs. We raised our Canadian courtesy flag and the yellow quarantine flag to indicate we had not yet cleared Customs, and inventoried (more or less) our on-board wine provisions. Oh, Canada, here we come!