Stop 2: Kingston and Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada
Updated: Jun 2
Our First Day in Kingston
We left Fair Haven after a glorious ten days. Motored head to wind to Oswego for a pump out and fuel up. Left Oswego and headed north. The swell was 3-5 feet and 15 knots. By the time we arrived, the wind had dropped to 6 knots and the lake was flat. We were heading right into it so, unfortunately, it was a motorboat trip with no sailing.
Arriving in Kingston
This being our third visit to Kingston, we just now discovered that Confederation Basin in downtown Kingston has day docks on the other side of the hotel. The day docks are $2 an hour and can only be used until 8 pm. We went there to tie up and clear into Canada, Being so early in the season, the pay center was not set up yet. We were told we could just stay there for free and that no one would care if we stayed overnight either (but if we got in trouble, our source would deny ever saying it).
After anchoring by Wolfe Island for two nights, we came back to the day docks and stayed for two nights. The place was empty except for 2 other sailboats that were also breaking the day dock rules. I can't recommend enough, go to Kingston for Memorial Day weekend. Save a load of money on marine fees! There's no electricity or water but that's ok, we make our own.
At the Day Docks in Confederation Basin right downtown!
We spent the first day in full-on tourist mode, walking around and taking lots of pictures. We ended up at the Kingston Brewing Company for the best vegan burger in the world- The Impossible Royale. We had eaten one last year and the wait did not disappoint! Still the best yet!
Kingston Brewing Company
By late afternoon, we decided it was time to head over to our anchorage in Barrett Bay off Wolfe Island. This anchorage was recommended to us by a woman, Lucy, whom we had just met the previous week at the Thousand Islands Yacht Club party. She stays on a mooring ball there. Her boat was there when we arrived, unfortunately, she was not around.
The anchorage can get very weedy as the summer progresses, but in late May it was no trouble at all. We set the hook in 8 feet of water with a muddy bottom. Dave sent out 125ft of chain. 15;1 scope. He believes in overkill and we appreciated it the next morning when the winds were gusting upwards to 25knots.
Anchoring at Wolfe Island
Barrett Bay Anchorage
After dropping the anchor, we hopped in the dinghy and set off to explore Marysville. We had visited it last year by ferry on a fun excursion with friends so we were familiar with the little village. On our row in to the public dinghy dock, we talked to our boat neighbors on a Cape Dory. They recommended we go to Open Mic night the following evening at the Wolfe Island Hotel, We took their advice.
Marysville is very quaint. We enjoyed looking at all the island houses. The village was absolutely covered in lilacs in bloom. The island would give the Lilac Festival in Rochester a run for its money. The smell was incredible. And yet, I only took pictures of tulips. Go figure.
Lots of flowers everywhere in Marysville.
We shared our anchorage with the Wolfe Islander IV. The vessel is a zero-emissions electric ferry that will run between Wolfe Island and Kingston.
Like all government projects, it's behind schedule and over budget. The construction teams were still working away on the dock that will charge the vessel when it pulls in. It is now tentatively scheduled to begin service in the fall of 2023.
For now, the Wolfe Islander III, a boring old diesel vessel, runs hourly between the two locations. Unlike the ferry on the other side of the island that runs between Wolfe Island and Cape Vincent, NY, the Canadian one is completely FREE to use!
We spent most of the next day on the boat. It was a bit rainy and blowy out. Dave put in an outlet over our saloon table that works off our new solar panels and lithium battery. It's been a real game-changer to have AC power while on anchor. I can actually charge my laptop or blow-dry my hair or mix a margarita in the blender! Combo that with our Starlink internet and being able to take hot showers away from marinas, we are living the dream!
Wolfe Island Nightlife
After being cooped up inside all day, we ventured into town to check out the local scene.
We dined at the WIPP (Wolfe Island Pizza and Pub). It was very affordable and tasty too.
Before Open Mic night at the Wolfe Island Hotel, there was a meeting about the future of a now-defunct canal that runs through the island. The panel of speakers discussed the history of the waterway and the possibility of dredging it and making it accessible again.
We really enjoyed listening to one particular speaker, Mark Mattson. From his website: "He's an environmental lawyer who spent most of his life off the coast of Kingston, Ontario. Mark felt privileged to grow up with swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters. Now, he fights for that right for everyone."
His passion reminded me of Susan Peterson Gateley, native of Fair Haven, NY, sailor and author. Her book Saving the Beautiful Lake is a must-read for anyone living on or near Lake Ontario. They both stress how we shouldn't take for granted the largest body of fresh water in the world, the great lakes. The future of water scarcity in other parts of the world will shine a brighter light on this area.
After the talk, we enjoyed the bands that played during Open Mic night. Everyone was very talented. We met some of the "soldiers" from Fort Henry. One of the brave soldiers got up and sang. We thanked him for his service.
Wolfe Island Hotel, Open Mic Night. The hotel has some incredible art work.
Back to Kingston
Our first order of business upon returning to Kingston was hauling out our collapsable bikes and heading up giant hills to Marine Outfitters, some 5 miles out (that's 1o miles round trip).
Why the boat store is so far from the water is a mystery to me and my tired legs. Those little clown tires on the foldable bikes are a LOT of work which is good because we sure need the exercise.
All the people I passed by must have thought an elephant was charging from behind with all the huffing and puffing noises I was making.
A more fun (flat) and scenic bike ride was down the Waterfront Trail. You can watch my "For Some Dumb Reason Not Using My GoPro" video below.
Scenes from A Bike Ride down the Kingston Waterfront Trail
Getting our History Lessons
Like any good city, Kingston is chock-full of history. A great deal of its history is about keeping the nasty Americans from invading. They built a lot of places to fire cannonballs at the Americans. None of it was ever actually used but they were ready!
Fort Henry was a state-of-the-art facility back in the day. According to the fort's website, the original fort was built for the War of 1812 but what stands today was a second fort built on the site of the first. It was considered even more necessary to fortify this point after the War of 1812, due to the completion of the Rideau Canal (built from 1826-1832), placing Point Henry at the intersection of three important waterways: the Rideau Canal, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Ontario.
Fort Henry was intended to be the linchpin in a new, extensive system of defensive works that would protect the confluence of these trading routes. Because the construction of the Rideau Canal went over budget, only the Fort and four Martello towers, spaced along the Kingston waterfront, were completed. Nonetheless, Fort Henry is the largest fortification west of Quebec City. And it's fun to take a guided tour of today too.
On another bike ride, we stopped off at the Murney Martello Tower, which is now a museum open to the public. We just did our own self-guided tour. It was free but they happily accept donations which we didn't make (sorry, we donated lots of money to other places around Kingston).
It's basically another place to launch giant cannon balls at the Americans. They even heated these cannon balls up so they would set the American's boats on fire. We learned the roof was torn off every summer so the cannon would be ready and rebuilt every winter to keep the snow out. That's dedication to lobbing fiery hot balls at Americans! The roof is now permanent. I guess they trust us a little more.
A Martello Tower
For our last bit of history, we took a free tour of the historic City Hall.
Let me preface this story by telling you Dave and I were the entire tour group. We were assigned two girls who were tag teaming leading us around.
Now read on.
We went on this tour last year but we wanted to do it again to get some better pictures and video. However, we neglected to tell our intrepid college student guides this nugget of information upfront. And after we got started it got too awkward to speak up so we just pretended this was our first visit.
As they pointed things out that we already knew, we oohed and aahed like it was our first time hearing it. They asked us how many light bulbs were in the chandelier and my guess was surprisingly right on. They told us to get excited about going down into the basement to the old jail and we did!
All was well and good up to the point when one of our guides' triumphantly declared "This concludes our tour.! Thank you for being a great listeners!"
I don't know what made Dave do it, but he picked this moment to let the guides know we had actually taken the very same tour the year before!
They looked a bit taken aback and stammered to understand this new information. One tried to rationalize by saying, "Well...maybe you didn't remember it?"
To which Dave replied, "I remembered ALL of it!"
I felt like an idiot. I couldn't exit fast enough!
My only consolation was thinking it gave them a good story for back in the dorm, probably starting with "We had the biggest jackasses take our tour today....."
Kingston City Hall Tour (Don't mention you know us!)
The next morning, we set sail (motored) down the Bateau Channel headed for Gananoque. Thanks for reading if you actually made it this far! :-)