Lake Ontario

We left Oswego Marina Thursday morning with five other looper boats.  The weather map indicates it’s a good day to cross Lake Ontario with low winds.  We had to stay at Oswego Marina two days longer than planed due to wind.  I am getting use to changing plans due to bad weather, sometimes we travel for two days and sit still for three days that’s what the loop is all about no schedule.  We will be entering Lake Ontario from the Oswego River with our destination for today at Kingston, Ontario about 54 miles away.  Crossing Lake Ontario we will be entering what is arguably the prettiest and most interesting cursing on the Great Lakes.  Kingston is where we will clear customs by a phone call to Canada Border Service with proper documentation.   The only one that can leave the boat to make this call is the Captain until authorized to do so by the CBSA.


As we venture out into the lake we see the Oswego West pier-head Lighthouse.   Over the years four lighthouses have stood watch over the mouth of the Oswego River.  The first was built-in 1822 on the east bank just below Fort Ontario.  Oswego’s second lighthouse built-in 1837 was a majestic octagonal stone tower with an attached oil house on the western side of the river’s mouth.  This lighthouse exhibited a light at a height of fifty-nine feet and would witness Oswego become an important milling center and the largest American City on Lake Ontario.  No longer needed the first light house was dismantled in 1841.  The second lighthouse in 1869 was totally rebuilt with the height of the limestone tower now seventy-four feet.  Captain John Budd served as a keeper of Oswego lighthouse for twenty-two years, until he retired in 1869.  On April 15, 1917 the third order light display from Oswego Lighthouse was discontinued and the breakwater light was renamed Oswego Light Station  The breakwater light was changed from fixed to flashing and on October 12, 1920 it was electrified.  Thought inactive the tall stone tower remained standing until 1927.  The lighthouse we see today was constructed in 1934 and a duplex was built to house two keepers and their families.  Oswego lighthouse was automated in 1968 and the Fresnel lens was removed from the lantern room in 1995 and is displayed at the Lee White Maritime Museum.


Lake Ontario is one of the five Great Lakes and surround on the north-west and southwest by the Canadian province of Ontario.  It was formed by glaciers and refined by thousands of years of runoff.  Lake Ontario is the same size as Lake Erie but with greater depths up to 800 feet.  Its shore line totals 620 miles and encompasses rocky shores, sandy beaches, marshland, cliffs, and forest.  The word Ontario is the Iroquois Indians word for ” a beautiful Lake”.  Canada’s most populous province Ontario was named for the lake.  In the Wyandot language Ontario means “Lake of Shinning Waters” with its primary inlet the Niagara River from Lake Erie.  The last in the Great Lakes chain Lake Ontario serves as the outlet to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River.  The first documented European to reach the lake was Etienne Brulie in 1615.  The lake has had many names over the years Lake St. Louis, Lacus Ontarius.  There were several trading posts established by both the British and French such as Fort Frontenac (Kingston) 1673, Fort Oswego 1722,  Fort Rouille (Toronto) 1750.  After the French and Indian War all forts around the lake were under British control and the U.S. didn’t take possession of the forts until signing of the Jay Treaty Inboxed 1794.  The lake became a hub of commercial activity following the war of 1812 with canal building on both sides of the border and heavy travel by lake steamer.


Lake Ontario shores offers few natural harbors with the exception of the northeast corner where there are many islands in the Bay of Quinte and Prince Edward Bay are in Canadian.  The water is so clear with a bluish-green tint you would think we are in the Bahama.  We started out with a few waves but as time went on it smoothed out and was a comfortable ride to Kingston.  We crossed the border into Canada at 11:05.

Coming into Kingston we navigated by the Frontenac Islands that encompasses a number of islands at the beginning of the Saint Lawrence River near the outlet of Lake Ontario.  Of the several island that make up Frontenac Island only three ( Wolf, Howe, and Simcoe Island) have substantial permanent residents with on demand marine ferry service to the island.

This is Simcoe Island Cable Ferry a two car ferry from Wolfe Island (largest of the Thousand Island) to Simcoe.  The ferry is a self-propelled cable ferry of all welded steel construction and a diesel engine.  The ferry guide cable is submerged and spans the boat channel between Wolfe Island and Simcoe Island.  The ferry crossing normally takes between four and five minutes.  We had to make sure we crossed behind the ferry as it was being pulled from the front by the cable with the rear slack and low in the water.


This is the phone both that Kent had to call from to clear customs.  It was at the Marina entrance next to the lighthouse.

We are staying at the Confederation Basin Marina in Kingston, Ontario for three days.  We are way out at the end of the marina it’s like a maze finding our dock.  Johnny is proud that he has his Canadian flag mounted on his boat.

Kingston is a Canadian city on Lake Ontario at the mouth of Cataraqui and St Lawrence River.  It’s known as the “limestone City” for its granite 19th century buildings.  Kingston is the oldest community in Ontario it was founded in 1673 when the governor of New France Louis de Baude sent Rene-Robert, Sieur de La Salle to build a fort at the Mississauga first nation site named Cataracoui.  What started as a fur trading outpost became Fort Frontenac.  After the Seven Year’s war ebbed in 1758 Kingston was deemed a receiving center for Loyalist refugees forced to leave the new republic (the U.S.) to the south after the success of the American Revolution.  It soon became the primary community of southeastern Upper Canada.  Kingston was settled in 1784 by loyalist from New York and has been a growing and vibrant city ever since.  During the 1800, shipbuilding and national defense prospered.  During the war of 1812, Kingston was the base for the Great Lakes British Naval Fleet, Ontario division.  After the war the British built Fort Henry in 1813 to guard the entrance to Rideau Canal, the Royal Navy dockyards and Kingston Harbor from the United States.  When the Rideau Canal was finished in 1832 it further increased the importance of this community.  Kingston was named the first capital of the province of Canada on February 10, 1841 and ending in 1844.  Kingston has remained an important military installation and was the county seat of Frontenac county until 1998.  Kingston had a terrible dock fire on April 18, 1840 with high winds it spread to a warehouse containing 1000 kegs of gunpowder.  The resulting explosion spread the fire thought the city downtown area destroying a large number of buildings including he old city hall.   To prevent similar incidents from occurring the city began building with limestone or brick and this rebuilding phase was referred to as “the Limestone Revolution ” and earned the city the nickname ‘The Limestone city”.  Kingston is known for its historic properties as reflected in the city’s motto of ” where history and innovation thrive”.

This is the last gas lantern in Kingston.  The opening between the buildings was for horse-drawn carriages.  The original wooden bridge built-in 1829 is named the penny bridge.  Tolls were collected from pedestrians who were charged a penny, the bridge was popularly known as the “Penny Bridge.

Fort Henry with its distinctive Branch Ditch towers is one of Kingston’s greatest historical treasures.  The original fort was constructed during the war of 1812 to protect the Kingston Navel Dockyards on Point Frederick from a possible American attack during the war and to monitor maritime traffic on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.  The original fort was replaced by a much larger construction in 1830 to maintain protection of the naval dockyard and protect the southern entrance to Rideau Canal.  The fort was restored in the 1930 and is now a tourist attraction.  Uniformed military interpreters known as the Fort Henry Guard, staff the fort and conduct complete with artillery firing, sentry change, garrison parades, muster parades, and flag ceremonies.

This young man is Private Webb and nice enough to answer any questions we have and allowed me to take his picture.

These pictures were taken at the Fort Henry looking across to Kingston.

This is a Murney Tower a Martello tower built-in 1846 on Murney Point to protect the harbor and approaches to Kingston.  A Martello tower is typically a squat round thick-walled tower with guns mounted on a flat roof.  Their purpose was to provide concentrated fire on ships thus repelling an enemy landing.   They were capable of withstanding a siege of considerable duration.  These fortifications were designed to concentrate fire on Gardiners Island.   The tower stand surrounded by dry ditch and is accessible only by draw bridge.  Although 16 Martello towers were built-in Canada only 11 are still standing, four of them are in Kingston.  The first one is by Fort Henry and the second one is at the Marina where are boat is docked.

Kingston City Hall is the seat of local government in Kingston, Ontario, Canada occupying a full city block facing Lake Ontario.  The first city hall and much of downtown Kingston was destroyed by fire in 1840 including the market area.  The new city hall designed by Irish-born architect George Browne was constructed of limestone and completed in 1844 with its scale and design reflective of Kingston status as capital of the Province of Canada at the time.

Liz and I took a tour of City Hall and the old jail that was in the basement.  Back in the 1800 any crime even swearing was taken serious the most common was drunkenness.  We saw Sir John A. Macdonald office, on second floor was Memorial Hall to honor Kingstonians who died during the first World War.  The elaborate plaster ceiling and beautiful stained glass windows commemorating battles in which Canadians fought.  Ontario Hall served as a dry goods merchant’s office a place of worship, a meeting place, dance hall, and offices.  From 1883 to 1889 it was home to one of the first women’s medical colleges in Canada.  Council Chamber behind the mayors chair is the City’s current coat of arms.  There are pictures of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Henry with the Queens picture hung an inch higher to show her authority.   There are six floors including the top where the clock is.

This was our view from the boat of the capital all light up at night on Thursday night.  The picture of course doesn’t show how amazing it looked with all the different colors.  On Friday night the fog was starting to come in and I took this picture of the sunset.


The Kingston Public Market is the oldest market in Ontario and has been providing food and a sense of community to residents of Kingston since 1801.  The market is located right behind City Hall and is open three days a week.  On April 18, 1840 when fire destroyed much of the downtown section of Kingston it included the market area, market buildings, and the original municipal offices.  We took this picture from the roof top of Jack’s Astor Bar.

Liz, Johnny, Kent, and I went for a walk to the welcome center in downtown Kingston.  We needed to know where we could exchange our money to Canadian currency.

Kent’s mission was to find some BBQ or chicken wings.  So after we exchanged our money, found a Canadian flag for Johnny’s boat, we found Jack’s Astor’s bar.  We enjoyed their patio deck along with beer and chicken wings.  Jack Astor’s bar is known for their famous Fish Bowel Drink.  They are the size of a fish bowl I haven’t tried one yet.

Today Friday Liz and I took the Kingston trolley and toured some of the important places in Kingston.

We saw Queen’s University founded in 1841 one of Canada’s oldest degree granting institutions, established by Royal Charter of Queen Victoria.  Queen’s University is a community, 175 years of tradition, academic, research, and beautiful waterfront campus made of limestone buildings.


Royal Military College (RMCC) is the military college of the Canadian Armed Forces, and a degree granting university training military officers.  RMC was established in 1876 and is the only federal institute in Canada with degree granting powers.  The college is a blend of older, historic buildings as well as more modern academic, athletic, and dormitory facilities.   Royal Military College Paladins played hockey against the Army Black Knights from West Point, NY.  Officer cadets of the Royal Military College are trained in what are known as the “four pillars” of academics, officership, athletics, and bilingualism.   Royal Military college is located on Point Frederick a 101 acre peninsula in Kingston Ontario at the point where the St. Lawrence River leaves Lake Ontario and the Rideau Canal System starts.  The location has been an active military base since 1789 and the Kingston Royal naval dockyard located on the site was an important dockyard during the War of 1812.

Bellevue House was the home to Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John Alexander Macdonald from 1848-1849.  The house an example of Italian Villa was constructed around 1840 for Charles Hales a wealthy Kingston Merchant who profited greatly from the prosperous decade of the 1830s.  Sir John A Macdonald moved into the house with his wife Isabella Clark and their son John Alexander in 1848.  The house has three main floors but has seven levels.

The kitchen is located in the cellar and the laundry room and storage is in the basement.  There are many rooms in this home but they are all very small.  This is the first historic home with the kitchen and laundry in the same living quarters.  The grounds still have plants and vegetables grown from the original plants as seeds are collected from the plants and replanted.  Macdonalds rented Bellevue from Charles Hale in the hope that the fresh air would assist in Isabella’s recovery which was a failure.  Isabella did not recover from her chronic malady.  In addition they lost their son John Alexander Jr. at 13 months old.

Sir John Alexander Macdonald was a dominant figure of Canadian Confederation, he had a political career which span almost half a century until he died in office in 1891.  He is respected today for his key role in the formation of Canada.

We drove by the first Provincial Penitentiary in Kingston that opened in 1835 as a former maximum security prison.  Before it closed in 2012 the facility housed between 350 and 500 inmates each were given their own cell.  It was one of the oldest prisons in continuous use in the world at the time of its closure.  Kingston Penitentiary was one of nine prisons in the Kingston area which range from low security facilities to the maximum security facilities the Kingston Penitentiary.   Millhaven Institution was built to replace Kingston Penitentiary.  This is Cedarhedge the former Wardens residence of Kingston Penitentiary that was constructed between 1870 and 1873.  Now the residence serves as the Correctional Service of Canada Museum.

Saturday we took the ferry across to Wolfe Island for lunch and shopping.  Wolfe Island is the largest of the Thousand Islands.  This was the first time we have crossed on a ferry with cars.  Wolfe Islands early Indian name was “Ganounkouesnot” meaning long island standing up.  During the French regime it was called Grand Isle, but was renamed Wolfe island in July 1792 in honor of British General James Wolfe.

We had lunch at the Wolfe Island Grill outside on their patio with Liz and Johnny (Anchor Down).

Then we went to the Old House Museum was once the home of Antonine LaRush, descendant of one of the original settlers of Wolfe Island.  The age of the house is unknown, although it has often been referred to as the oldest house on Wolfe Island.

We had to stop at the bakery for fresh rolls.  When I walked in and the smell of fresh-baked goods it reminded me of my Grandpa Suess Bakery in Sleepy Eye, MN when I was growing up.  This is the Town Hall built-in 1859 after the Township of Wolfe Island was incorporated in 1850.

Saturday night Kent and I walked up town to Merchants Top House and listen to music.  We shared a table with Jackie, and Stacy to girls from Ontario here for the weekend.  We had a nice time and then walked back to the boat.  We will be leaving on Monday for Trenton it’s suppose to be good weather for navigating.  As the last two days have been very windy.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Burkhalters says:

    Awesome, very interesting!! Thx😍

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