When it comes to boating on the waters of the Great Lakes, all anyone needs is a good boat, good weather, and great company! Michael Welsch from Rochester N.Y., has believed and lived this statement his entire life.
Growing up in East Northpoint, Long Island, Michael learned how to boat on the open ocean with his family. When he was a teenager, he moved to Schenectady, N.Y., and lived there until he went to college at Albany.
After graduating from Albany College of Pharmacy, he moved to Rochester, N.Y., and opened up his own pharmacy. He’s been in pharmaceuticals for 25 years, and his oldest son is currently following in his footsteps and studying pharmaceuticals. Together with his wife Debbie, the couple has three children with two in college and their youngest starting his junior year in high school.
Heading To Canada
Every year the Welsch family takes a trip up to Canada with their close friends the Mustafas to see different towns and to get away from their busy lives in the city. Michael always takes his Carver 366 Motor Yacht for the trip because of the twin Volvo 8.0L engines. He also likes the comfort it provides. Having a family of five on board, the two bedrooms, two full heads and a convertible couch in the salon makes the trip more comfortable for everyone.
In 2019 the two families decided to head up the Rideau Canal towards Ontario, Canada, planning their trip out on a day-by-day basis. However, their plans were quickly disrupted.
Pushing Off Into A Storm
Leaving from Southpoint Marina in Rochester, the families started by traveling the Rideau Canal. Unfortunately, the trip got off to a rocky start when a storm develop quickly out of nowhere, whipping the waves into 3-footers by seven in the morning.
“The other boat we were with wanted to go straight across,” recalls Michael. “I’m not overly cautious, but 3-footers at 7 am didn’t sound good. So we decided to go down to Oswego, which added about 20 miles to the trip, but at least you can hug the shore with places where you can duck into if it gets too bad. But going straight to Kingston, you’re 95 miles away from the shore, and there’s really nowhere to go. You’re committed. You’ll be running right down the middle of the lake for a very long time.”
What should have been only a two-hour trip up the coast to reach Oswego, turned into a four-hour trip as the weather continually got worse. By the time the group had reached Oswego, the waves were hitting heights of 6 to 8 feet with some reaching as high as 10 feet, making it dangerous to keep going. Michael with his family and friends decided to dock at Oswego for two nights while the storm raged.
The Welschs and the Mustafas weren’t the only ones trapped by the sudden storm. To one side was a 64-foot ship and on the other was a 45-foot Silverton. Looking at his 37-foot Carver, Michael knew his boat couldn’t take on the storm safely. So they decided to stay docked until the storm dissipated.
He recalled the man transporting the Silverton was an experienced captain. “They had come up out of the Erie Canal and he was headed for Toronto,” says Michel. “He told us he was going to give it a try and he took off and went out of the channel at Oswego. About 15 minutes later he came back so I guess we made the right call.”
Locks & Dams
After the storm had passed, the Welsch and Mustafa families left early in the morning to make up for the time that they had lost on the trip. Sailing straight to Kingston in Canada, they only stopped to fuel up and continued straight for the locks. The Rideau Canal has a total of 49 locks and 22 lock stations running along, and since each lock takes about 30 minutes to get through, scheduling is a big deal.
In order to regain the time lost, the group skipped through locks 49-38 and past by the towns they had originally planned to spend time at, traveling a total of 125 miles in one day. This put them back on track for their schedule and had them spending the night at Opinicon.
Located just before the well-known Chaffey’s Lock, Opinicon is a resort that someone found run down and in disrepair, so they bought it and fixed it up. After the remodeling, it’s now a quaint resort that is a must-see stop on any traveler’s list.
After staying the night in the Opinicon Resort, the group went through Chaffey’s and the Newboro locks and headed out towards Westport, which is located on the western side of the canal and on the upper part of the Rideau Lake. After staying overnight in Westport, the group turned around to headed back down the canal to see other towns and sights.
Sights Along The Way
Having planned to explore the towns they spent the night in, the Welsch and Mustafa families hadn’t planned a lot of stops along the way. But the places they did explore were absolutely beautiful.
One of the places they stopped at was called Morton Bay.
“It is a very narrow cove that opens up into a big bay that's got some steep rock cliffs that makes it almost like a canyon,” says Michael. “The entrance to it is about 40 feet wide.”
With the entrance only being 40 feet wide, it is too hard to fit a boat into it. So the families decided to just anchor near the rock cliffs and enjoy some cliff diving and relaxation. Along with this bay, they also went to other places like Sandy Lake for fun family time and other side places that could be hard to find if you’re not familiar with the area.
Michael talked about how they used Garmin ActiveCaptain, which is an app that allows people who have traveled in the area to mark fun spots that other travelers and boaters might enjoy visiting. Using this app, the Welsch and Mustafa families were able to find these great places to relax and have fun on.
While traveling through locks 36-42, the group stopped at Seeley’s Bay, a small village that is part of the Rideau Historic Traveling Route. It is approximately 25 miles (40 KM) northeast of Kingston and 100 miles (160 KM) southwest of Ottawa. It has beautiful sights of the canal as well as the forests that surround it.
A sudden engine breakdown or malfunction can bring any trip to a sudden stop and that’s exactly what happened on this adventure. On the way back, about 10 miles outside of Kingston, one of the Volvo engines blew an oil fitting that pumped eight quarts of oil into the engine bilge. The Welsch family could only run only one of the engines the last leg to Kingston.
“We had it pushed back on and tie-wrapped together,” recalls Michael. “It’s like a compression fitting and we just kind of jury-rigged it.”
Luckily for them the jury-rigging worked and because they had met someone who knew the number for a mobile mechanic when coming through the locks, a mechanic was able to make a new hose in his hydraulic shop while they were waiting. He brought it down the next day and was able to fix the fitting, allowing everyone to get underway and headed for home.
The tradition of going on their trips to Canada has been going on for years, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible this year. Due to COVID-19 pandemic and the desire to keep the coronavirus from spreading, the borders have been closed to traveling in between Canada and the United States. However, this didn’t stop the Welsch family from spending time on the water with close friends and family this past summer.
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