The Lake Ontario Log goes south ( all the way to Maryland)
I promised readers we'd get off the lake in our next article. Last September we took the good ship Titania, who usually calls Fair Haven her homeport, down the canal and on to salt water. As far as we know, this is the first our 30 year old boat has ever gotten off Ontario. For a detailed day by day account of the cruise with lots of photos visit http://www.gateley.net/chpk2000.htm.
There were a few surprises. I didn't expect the canal to be so scenic or interesting. And New Jersey and the Chesapeake in late September and October were much busier than anticipated. The Chesapeake also shows signs of stress from over fishing and from low density development along its shores. It's lost more of the underwater vegetation so key to the health of the bay's environment and the oyster fishery seems to have become all but non-existent. We did our bit to hasten the extinction of Bay sea life too. We found a great little market in Baltimore, the Cross Street Market, that had the best fresh shrimp and oysters. We ate well during our visit to Baltimore. (And during our passage along the Jersey shore too which included two days in front of the Shrimp Box restaurant.)
This first trip off the lake which took us just barely south beyond the Mason Dixon line wetted our appetite to go further. But at the same time, I remain convinced that Lake Ontario offers fine cruising in its own right, thanks largely to its Canadian shoreline. Lake Ontario's waters are reasonably temperate compared, for example, to those of Maine or the Maritimes. There are still lightly developed areas to anchor or spend a night at a dock in. And outside of the two month peak season the crowds aren't bad at all in most locations around the lake. It's true we don't have the interesting and sometimes spectacular ecology that goes with tidal water. The vast flocks of shorebirds that at certain seasons mob Delaware Bay, the pelicans and soaring frigate birds of the tropical waters, the drifting jelly fish, sea lions and whales of the pacific, and the dolphins of all the coasts I've sailed do make salt water more interesting. And I dearly wish we had a species of freshwater flying fish in the lake After all, we have about every other darn type of marine invertebrate and mollusk showing up in ship ballast in the lakes. Why not some nice flying fish? They are such a delight.
Lake Ontario does have its seasonal rhythms and patterns of life, but they aren't quite as spectacular as those of some saltwater areas. We do have our spring midge hatch though. That's when in March or April solid objects such as your just painted boat bottom are blanketed by billions of midges- a gigabyte of bugs all stuck to your wet boot top or fresh varnish. We have our fish runs of a sort too in spring- usually suckers bullheads or big brawny brown carp rather than flashing silver salmon or spring run alewives that crowd into streams to spawn. And our waters do host respectable migrant bird aggregations, especially during the winter months.
It's good to venture out upon wider waters, but it's also good to return to home waters too. Recently 200 scientists from 50 countries got together to draw up a list of serious environmental problems facing the world. Four of the top six they listed related somehow to water or lack of same. It's worth thinking of that and not taking our sweet water sea for granted. It's simple existence, after all, is no small marvel.