Monday, July 14, 2008

Best of Lake Ontario, Golden Horseshoe

Here are our recommendations for anyone cruising or touring the Golden Horseshoe of Lake Ontario:

Best marina -- Credit Village Marina, Port Credit
Best yacht club -- Newport Yacht Club & Marina, Stoney Creek
Best fuel dock -- Beacon Harbourside Marina, Jordan Harbour
Best view -- Dalhousie Yacht Club, Port Dalhousie
Best dining experience -- 13 Mountain Street Bistro, Grimsby
Best ribs -- Mustang's Big Ol' Grill, Stoney Creek
Best bakery -- Olson's Foods + Bakery, Port Dalhousie
Best blues -- Odyssey Blues Band featuring Suzanne Hart, Lion Tavern, Port Dalhousie
Best taxi driver -- Ed, Lincoln Limo & Cab, Grimsby

Send us your recommendations via comments on the blog.

Golden Horseshoe Cruise by the numbers

Length of cruise -- 10 days, 9 nights
Distance travelled -- 118 statute miles
Ports of call -- 6
Average fuel burn -- 2.488 U.S. gallons per hour
Average daily cost of cruise -- $165.82
Average daily cost without purchase of a case of wine and the four priciest restaurants -- $65.80
Lesson learned -- Don't overpack.

Friday, July 11, 2008

TomCat 24: Ideal pocket cruiser for us

After 10 days aboard At Last! we are more convinced than ever that the TomCat 24 will be perfect for our boating needs and desires for the next five, perhaps even 10 years.

Four years ago, after we first spent several hours aboard the same boat we eventually bought late last year, we detailed the reasons the TomCat 24 is the ideal pocket cruiser for us at this time:

  • It looks good.
  • It's small yet spacious, and relatively inexpensive.
  • It's trailerable.
  • It won't roll, and provides a stable, smooth ride in cruising conditions.
  • It has a nice turn of speed.
  • It's unsinkable.
  • It has an enclosed head.
  • The berth lies athwartships.
  • It’s a multihull.
  • It looks good.
When we’re boating together, we enjoy inland and coastal cruising, hanging out in secluded anchorages. The Captain, when he’s on his own, gets all the offshore time he craves with his Nordhavn connections and work on Circumnavigator magazine.

Together, we have enjoyed the Channel Islands off the California coast, Inside Passage to Alaska, North Channel in the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, the warm waters of Southwest Florida and the British Virgin islands, and Canal du Midi in France.

On his own, the Captain, under sail and under power, too, has crossed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, has sailed around Cape Horn in record time with his trimaran Great American, and has several other ocean passages on his wish list.

Together, we’re looking forward to the Bay of Quinte and 1000 Islands later this year, the Rideau Canal and/or Trent-Severn Waterway as soon as we can swing the time, and a long list of other cruises as far east as Newfoundland, south to the Bahamas and/or the Sea of Cortez, and north to Alaska—the Lord of Heaven, Earth and Water willing.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Penultimate port of Golden Horseshoe Cruise

We were so excited by the chance encounter with family on Toronto Islands that we plain forgot to take a photograph of Bill and Terry and their sons, Tyler and Jackson, who were on their way to the Centreville amusement park with friends Phil and Jen and their three daughters.

We were out on our morning walk from Toronto Island Marina where 30 years ago we went boating together for the first time. It was here that the Captain kept the Folkboat Austra, his first sailboat, bright from the water up, and Austra II, his Alberg 22 sailboat, while working on magazines in Toronto and Montreal.

We did not forget to raise the camera when we spotted Indifference, a Marine Trader 44 that crossed the Atlantic long before the first Nordhavn or very many other motorboats had made the passage to Europe. We chatted briefly with the owner, Leonard Stern, who with his wife was on a Golden Horseshoe cruise of their own. We agreed to meet in Frenchman’s Bay in late July when Indifference will be heading to eastern Lake Ontario.

We were tucked away in a corner of the marina near the spot where the Captain gave the Admiral a memorable kiss three decades earlier. A sweet way to end our cruise, before the final leg home to Frenchman’s Bay.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lake like glass for run to Port Credit

Not a ripple on the water, barely a breathe of wind, with only whisps of cloud in the blue sky. For the Admiral, it was boating in heaven.

The fierce midsummer sun saw the Captain slather on the sun block.

In the perfect conditions for powerboating, we took our time, throttled back and enjoyed the 18-mile passage from Stoney Creek to Port Credit which lies 11 miles west of Toronto.

No, it’s not a steel ship threatening to run us down . . .

. . . but the grounded freighter Ridgetown forming a breakwater at the mouth of the Credit River to protect the huge Port Credit Harbour Marina. (That's the Toronto skyline at right.) We were headed to the inner harbour and the much more cozy Credit Village Marina.

At the Snug Harbour Seafood Bar & Grill (above left) which overlooks the marina we had a surprisingly fine dinner of calamari, salmon and halibut nuggets, bouillabaisse and grillled jumbo shrimp, while seated at a table on the patio.

A bourbon chocolate pecan pie brought the meal to a close on a high note.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Best ribs ever, at Mustang’s Big Ol’ Grill

Ed, the taxi driver we met in Jordan, was absolutely right.

The ribs at Mustang’s Big Ol’ Grill in Stoney Creek are indeed the fall-off-the-bone variety. More than that, when you try to pick up a rib with your fingers, the bone pulls cleanly out of the meat, just like a toothpick would, leaving a big pile of tasty pork on your plate, with abundant sauce and just enough fat to make you lick your lips and pat your belly.

Peter and Leslie Elliott run the restaurant in Stoney Creek and another similar one in Mississauga. We gave him greetings from Ed and prodded him for the secret to his fabulous ribs. He’d only say the ribs are prepared in a marinade, slow-cooked for a couple of hours, then kept in a cooler until they are grilled to order for each customer. In other words, no real clue as to why they are the best ribs we’ve ever had. Our server shown in the photo was cheerful Lisa—who has never tried the ribs at her place of employment!

As if we had room for dessert, we forged ahead and ordered the apple crisp made by Peter’s mum. It comes warm, of course, and we requested chocolate ice cream on the side. What a taste treat! Especially for the Captain who remembers how an old sailor in the now defunct Cornwallis Hotel in Halifax told him when he was only 15 that chocolate ice cream was the only a la mode suitable for apple pie or crisp.

If you’re ever near Stoney Creek, Mustang’s Big Ol’ Grill is not to be missed.

It’s a 30-minute walk from Newport Yacht Club and Marina where Jack, the manager, is friendly and helpful, and the washrooms and showers are spotless.

Right now, the entrance to the harbour, guarded by King Neptune, has silted and shallows to six feet at the narrowest point. Next week dredging starts so soon Newport will be easily accessible by any boat, sail or power.

An address to savour: 13 Mountain Street in Grimsby

What a find! A 20-minute hike from Foran’s Marine in the little town of Grimsby we discovered the finest restaurant of the cruise: 13 Mountain Street Casual Elegant Bistro. It’s the former Gables Restaurant mentioned in the Ports Cruising Guide.

What a feast! For an appetizer, the Admiral had a ceviche seafood citrus salad with ruby red grapefruit and oranges and, for the main. the “rack and roll” which consisted of a roasted rack of Ontario lamb and a braised Ontario lamb shank with an Indian spiced dumpling and carmelized leeks. The Captain had the rich pheasant pistachio terrine, followed with a pan-fried Lake Erie perch, Whitemeadows maple syrup cured cabbage slaw and spiced Yukon Gold potato batons.

Our excellent server, Michael, was knowledgeable about the menu, the wines and the region. For a libation, we selected Megalomaniac Cabernet Sauvignon from John Howard Cellars.

Thing learned: Since 2005, licensed restaurants in Ontario have had the option of participating in the BYOW/THTR program (Bring Your Own Wine/Take The Rest Home). Thus, we were able to take our unfinished wine back to the boat.

Sous chef Abby Solomon, in charge of the kitchen as chef Josh Groom was away, served our dessert—vanilla creme brulee and a blood red orange meringue pie—and chatted briefly with us.

13 Mountain Street was all you want a dining-out experience to be, great food, great service, great decor. Kudos to owners Peter and Cheryl Martinello.

Across Mountain Street from the restaurant is a Food Basics where we acquired some neccessities for the balance of the cruise. On the walk back, we saw Dutch Shop for Dutch and European delicacies on Main Street near Mountain that will be worth checking out on a future visit. Upon return to the marina, we learned that Ed, the friendly taxi driver of Canada Day, had come by to see if we wanted a tour of his town.

All in all, Grimsby made for a wonderful stop in our travels where a shower just before departure cooled the morning.

Our only regret? That we were not carrying the Nikon as the presentation of food by Abby Solomon is picture perfect.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fireworks around Lake Ontario

No, it’s not an asteroid plummeting from the heavens, but our first attempt at time-lapse photography during the Canada Day fireworks display visible from Jordan Harbour.

The cool thing about fireworks this Canada Day was that we could see them near our marina, at Port Dalhousie, at Ashbridge’s Bay across Lake Ontario and over Burlington. Had we stayed up a bit longer we’re certain we would have seen the fireworks at Ontario Place, too.

We had an excellent Canada Day, with lunch at On the Twenty in Jordan and a tour at the adjacent Cave Spring Cellars, the first winery in Canada to operate a restaurant on the premises. Today, name a winery in Niagara, Prince Edward County or the Okanagan that doesn’t operate a restaurant.

Getting the five miles to Jordan and back was a challenge as hiring a taxi isn’t as easy as the cruising guides make it out to be. It takes close to a half hour to get a a taxi from St. Catharines and then they want a $20 surcharge. Fortunately, our driver was a rookie and did not know enough to charge the extra $20, so the fare, with tip, from marina to Jordan, was only $13.

For the trip back from Jordan, we tried calling a cab from Lincoln Limo & Cab in nearby Grimsby. They made us wait 45 minutes and then wanted a flat fee of $25 for the trip back. Fortunately, we are able to negotiate a $15 rate with the dispatcher which we gladly augmented with a $5 tip for Ed, our driver, who was a friendly guy with lots of recommendations for eateries at our next harbour. In fact, he’s a friend of the owner at Mustang’s Big Ol’ Grill, a roadhouse we had been thinking of trying when we're in Stoney Creek. Ed assured us that the ribs at Mustang’s were of the fall-off-the-bone variety.

A side note to foodies: The Anna Olson of Food Network fame whose baked goods we sampled in Port Dalhousie was pastry chef at On the Twenty in Jordan for seven years. It’s there she met her husband, Michael, who was the founding chef of the restaurant. Anna is originally from Georgia but grew up in Toronto. She and Michael have co-authored several cookbooks and this summer are expanding their Foods & Bakery operation to St. Davids near Niagara Falls.

In Jordan Harbour, we took on 153 litres of fuel at $1.46 for a total of $228.28. In the world of the $150 barrel of oil, powerboating isn’t cheap. For our American friends, that translates to 40.4 gallons at $5.54. That’s Harbourmaster Marsha in the photo with the Admiral.

Again we ask the question, why do cruising sailors insist on taking photograph after photograph of sunsets?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Kicking back in Jordan Harbour

The dominant visual at Jordan Harbour—whether you’re approaching by water or zooming along the Queen Elizabeth Way—is the rusting hulk of a 16th century ship sailed by Jacques Cartier. It’s a replica built to serve as a restaurant that was looking for a new home when vandals set the vessel on fire.

Beacon Harbourside Marina is a lovely quiet harbour to spend two days in. It’s small—only 88 slips in all—but it has a fuel dock and all the other facilities, and a friendly harbourmaster in Marsha.

What it does not have is Harbour Estates Winery only a 15-to-20-minute walk away as stated in the popular Ports Cruising Guide for Lake Ontario and as cited on the Jordan Harbour website. In truth, it’s about 40 minutes away on foot.

Our plan is to taxi to Jordan, the village about five miles inland, where we’ll tour the highly regarded Cave Spring Cellars after lunch at the highly praised Inn on the Twenty. Then we’re picking up a famed Rueben at Zooma Zooma Cafe for eating back on board at supper before Canada Day fireworks this evening.

The marina is part of the Best Western Beacon Harbourside Inn so we have excellent WiFi here. The hotel restaurant is well known in Niagara for its $14.95 prime rib dinner. Needless to say, that was our fare last night.

After a glass or three of surprisingly excellent shiraz from the Konzelmann Estate Winery in nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake.

One sidelight: Montreal Canadiens great Yvan Cournoyer was dining two tables over. He and the three companions talked return on equity their entire meal.

Why is it that all cruising sailors seem to take sunset photos night after night?

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