Monthly Archives: August 2015

Discovering The Trent Severn Waterway, Part One

Have you ever guided your boat up a gigantic elevator? Rode over North America’s only marine railway? Cruised past granite formations almost as old as the earth itself? Well, have I got a boating destination for you! Discover all of these, and more, diverse boating experiences along Ontario, Canada’s historic Trent-Severn Waterway.

boats docked at Rosedale Lock

Overnight stay at Rosedale Lock, one of 44 locks along the system.

A Long Way To Go

Starting on eastern Lake Ontario at Trenton, Ontario, this fascinating inland route extends in a north-westerly direction to Port Severn where the Severn River flows into Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. A series of interconnected lakes, rivers and canals takes one through ever changing vistas that range from pastoral farmland to the rugged outcroppings of the Precambrian Shield.

Take in the wind swept pines on the Severn River, or wave to the cows as you pass almost within reach on the Talbot portion. Drop a hook in Rice Lake to catch a prize bass, walleye or muskie. Quaint towns and bustling cities provide places to tie up to, do some shopping or go for dinner – all at a speed that matches your mood.

Boaters can travel end to end, or enter from many points all along the system. Whichever direction one heads, they can find their way to the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean beyond. This makes virtually the whole world accessible from – and to –  the Trent Severn Waterway. For those of us fortunate enough to live along the waterway, this opens up access to essentially endless destinations beyond our home waters.

cruising trent severn waterway

A gorgeous morning to be cruising on the Trent Severn Waterway.

History in The Making

With an overall length of 240 miles (386 km), it features 44 locks, including the two highest lift locks in the world. Travelers can also experience two sets of flight locks and one marine railway – the only one of its kind in North America. Taking 87 years to complete, this engineering feat began way back in 1833 with construction of the first lock at the popular tourist town of Bobcaygeon.

As many of the waters are at varying elevations, a progression of locks was built over time to allow vessels to overcome these obstacles and travel the system from end to end. In fact, boaters transiting from Lake Ontario are raised a total 596 feet (182m) to the summit at Balsam Lake. From there, the descent is 262 feet (80m) back down to Georgian Bay.

Transition From The Early Years

Initially built to accommodate water powered mills and the movement of timbers cut by local logging companies, by the time the waterway was completed it’s original purpose as transportation corridor had been overshadowed by an expanding railway network, as well as the increased reliance on the automobile.  What was once a loose amalgamation of varying interests is now a unified canal system operated by Parks Canada, its importance being recognized as a designated National Historic Site Of Canada.

Boaters share this beautiful resource with local and long term cruisers, as well as cottagers, fishermen and even the occasional rental houseboat. As an integral part of the ‘America’s Great Loop’, one can swap stories with those fortunate souls making the year long journey through the American mid-west, Gulf of Mexico, Eastern Seaboard and central Great Lakes region –  with the Trent-Severn Waterway playing a vital link in that journey.

Have look at the introduction to our ‘Cruising The Trent Severn Waterway’ video production. This 76 minute long feature is now available both as a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, or a convenient digital download. Feel free to visit our site at for more information on the video, as well as the entire Trent Severn Waterway.

In the next installment, we will explore the Trent Region and the communities from Trenton through to Peterborough.

Please remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily posts, photos and videos. We look forward to seeing you there!

Fort Lauderdale – Florida’s Best Beach?

I can still recall the very first time I set foot on the soft sand beach of Fort Lauderdale. Two things came immediately to mind; first was how soft the sand was, second was how warm it felt on my feet. That last part may sound like a given, after all, this is south Florida. The reason that the warmth struck me was the fact that this was January. January = Winter. Not exactly the warm and squishy feeling I had equated with that time of the year.

Fort Lauderdale Beach sign

The sign that you have made it :-)

Game Changer

Coming from southern Ontario, our winters are mostly, well, crap. Cold, snow and cloudy are the words that come to mind to describe that time of year in the Great White North. Lauderdale, on the other hand, enjoys an average of 246 days of sunshine a year.

Average winter temps? A warm and welcome 77 degrees. Average snowfall? Zero. Yup, right from that first day, I was hooked.

As you can imagine, it didn’t take much to settle into this new way of looking at that time of year and my beach experience had an immediate and far reaching influence. Since our first experience, we have returned to Lauderdale many times, with our most recent stay taking up the entire month of January! Once despising winter, I can now say bring it on!

Walking on Fort Lauderdale Beach

Walking along the miles of uninterrupted beach on a hot & sunny day.

Walk With Me

One or favorite things to do when we are on holidays is to walk. Exploring an area and seeking out new mini adventures are always a treat for us. With seven miles of uninterrupted beach and shoreline to enjoy, this place fits our style perfectly.

Apart from ‘just walking’ the beach, there are a multitude of places to drop in to while out and about. As mentioned, it can get quite warm – scratch that, HOT – throughout the day, but apart from diving in for a swim, there are many places to stop in and duck out of the heat. The main beach strip runs right alongside the ocean on the infamous A1A. Also known as Ocean Boulevard, this road is lined with hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist traps that help cool you down, quench your thirst, or lighten your wallet ;-)

beach rinsing station

When stepping off the beach, there rinsing stations like this are all along A1A.

After Hurricane Sandy rolled through here in 2012, the preexisting seawall was extended north, past Sunrise Boulevard. This barrier had been put in place to protect the road and oceanfront buildings from storm surges that often accompany a hurricane. As you can see in the following photo, this structure is not some monolithic looking concrete eyesore, but rather, an aesthetically pleasing part of the landscape. Designed to blend in with it’s surroundings, it is formed in a curving pattern to mimic the waves on the ocean.

With dozens of strategically located openings in the seawall, many of these pedestrian access points offer rinse off showers, as well as feet sprays to clear off that heavenly beach sand.

A1A and the beach

Looking south along A1A and the beach.

Warm & Easy Feeling

With average sea temperatures ranging between 84 – 88 degrees in the summer and 72 – 77 degrees in the winter, one can always expect nice conditions for swimming. The Gulf Stream runs northward, just off the coast to continually brings warm water with it. This is one more reason that Fort Lauderdale enjoys warm air temps throughout the winter. In all of our visits, I can recall having to wear something more than just a light tee shirt only three or four times.

If you are not the swimming type, the view of the blue/green water will be enough to warm you up. It also makes a nice backdrop while enjoying a late afternoon aperitif on the balcony :-)

Atlantic Ocean and the beach

The gorgeous blue/green waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Florida’s Best Beach?

So, can I categorically state that this is Florida’s best beach? Probably not. But, after having visiting a number of beaches on the east coast, Gulf side and even the Keys, I can definitely say that this is our favorite. With warm temperatures that can be counted on throughout the winter, a large and long area to walk and dozens of great places to see along the way, this place is number one with us. And precisely why we look forward to returning to with eager anticipation each year.

morning on Fort Lauderdale Beach

Good morning from Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Keep an eye out here on the Blog for more upcoming reviews of the Greater Fort Lauderdale area. There’s so many things to see and do in this town and I’m looking forward to sharing ’em all with you.

Marine VHF Radios; Why You Need A Free MMSI Number

Life jackets? Check! Marine charts? Check! Ice? Check! Okay, maybe that last one shouldn’t have been on the list of ‘must have before leaving the dock’, but sadly, many boaters we come across would place that at #1 on their list.

Safety First

Safety while out on the water should be of paramount concern for all boaters so why not take advantage of the tools that are available right at our fingertips? The correct use of your VHF radio can help keep you in contact with surrounding boaters, stay aware of weather updates, and even receive safety updates from the Coast Guard. Did you also know that there is a built in device that can potentially save your life?

VHF radio

Fixed mount DSC/VHF marine radio

Pretty much every VHF marine radio built in the past number of years comes equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) capability. Some of the features one can employ include direct calling an individual station (ie; a specific boat), locating their exact position or even transmitting your own. Best part is that this can all be done with a simple push of a button. But before one can do any of that, the radio will require an individual Maritime Marine Service Identity (MMSI). Connecting the radio to a GPS can add an even greater level of safety, but more on that further down.

Understanding MMSI

To be most effective, your radio should be unique in the sea of radio traffic that is out there today and that’s where an MMSI number comes into play. Think of it as a phone number for your radio. This number is physically entered into the radio, making it uniquely identifiable from every other one. Keep in mind that if one has more than one VHF radio aboard, each one of those should use the same MMSI number. The reasoning for this is that the number is associated with a specific vessel, not to the radio itself.

Information that is included in a new registration would include the vessel name, owner’s name & contact info along with gross tonnage/ length of the boat. In an emergency situation, this information can be used to identify a given vessel and contact the registered owner or their family. If one is involved in a perilous event such as fire, man overboard or taking on water, being able to send that information with one button would free up those on board to focus on the emergency at hand. This can be done without having to speak directly with outsiders. That is possible by activating the ‘panic button’ on every DSC equipped radio. NOTE: Never push that button outside of an emergency, as it will immediately broadcast an emergency signal to all those in radio range. There is no test function for that feature, so do not let anyone play with it!

Obtaining Your Number

Getting your own MMSI number is a free and easy procedure. In Canada, applications for  recreational boaters, with a non-licensed VHF radio, are available through the Industry Canada web site. American boaters who remain in U.S. waters can obtain their numbers through a number of outlets, including Boat US, Sea Tow and the U.S. Power Squadron.

Advanced Features

Interconnecting a Global Positioning System (GPS) interface allows one even more capabilities, as well as adding another layer of safety. Today, many manufacturers offer VHF radio models that have a built in GPS. If yours doesn’t have this feature, you can connect your own GPS unit to the radio Just check the specs on each respective piece of equipment to see which wires plumb together.

hand held VHF

Some hand held units, such as this Standard Horizon model, are MMSI capable.

With both units working together, users can send their position to other similarly equipped vessels, and even ask for a ‘position request’ from a buddy out on the water. More importantly, if one were to ever find themselves having to broadcast a mayday call, the exact position of the vessel would not only be sent to relevant authorities, but to other boats in radio range would automatically get that same position info which would pop right up on their GPS plotter! Imagine the beneficial impact upon a rescue operation; resources could be immediately dispatched to the scene, as well as rebroadcast via the Coast Guard, all without the confusion that may result in a panicky situation.

GPS chartplotter with MMSI info

MMSI position information on GPS chart plotter

Things To Remember

There are a few things to keep in mind when setting up your radio(s). Most manufacturers only allow the end user one or two attempts when entering the 9 digit MMSI code. If you mess up, the radio will have to be returned to the manufacturer to have the codes wiped clear before attempting to enter it again. Same is true if you sell your boat/radio. When selling, it would be a good idea to have your MMSI number removed from any equipment before the new owner takes possession. Remember, the number is specific to YOUR vessel and should not be passed on to new owners.Of course, you could just transfer the radio from your old boat to the new one. . .

For American boaters who plan on transiting beyond U.S. waters (Canada/Mexico/Bahamas, etc.), MMSI numbers must be registered directly with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). As well, a Ship’s Station License may be required for navigators other than pleasure boaters.

Keep in mind that, even if connected to a GPS (which gets it’s signal via a satellite network), all communications are handled through the radio frequencies of the VHF. Some folks get confused on this point and assume that a ‘position send’ and ‘position request’ are transmitted through space. All attempted communications must happen within radio range.

Here’s a video I produced to help show a little bit more regarding MMSI;

Bottom Line Benefits

With life saving potential over and above all the gee-whiz factors, I cannot imagine why any boater would not pursue setting up their own MMSI registration. In my mind, this has got to be one of the best pieces of safety equipment one could have on their boat. Best of all, it’s completely free :-)