Thanks Jack and Jerry! These guys came to our rescue as we idled in the bay trying to reorient ourselves and contemplated heading back. Relieved to see another boat, we waved them over to ask where they were headed. They told us, but we really had no idea where they were going besides north. We asked to follow them, and to our surprise and relief they escorted us half way up the Georgian Bay, all the way to Pointe au Baril.
Eventually we arrived at Jack and Jerry's destination, their buddy Dave's new cabin. We stopped just briefly to look at our maps and guide books and make sure we were better prepared to navigate ourselves, on our own this time. We only traveled a few more miles today, just south of Byng Inlet, to Thompson Marine. They had very few big boats here, but small skiffs and dinghies were common. This dock spot is popular with folks living on local islands, which are only accessible by boat.
There wasn't much there besides a dock and small office that sold cold drinks. We used the rest of the afternoon to prepare for the 2nd half of Georgian Bay. We highlighted the route we intended to take and organized our charts so we could access them quickly.
Around dusk, Peter, or Piotr, an employee of Thompson Marine with a very strong polish accent invited us to join him for dinner. Hungry and tired of eating peanut butter we were happy to have evening plans. Peter served cabbage wraps, a dish whose polish name I can't remember, and gave us advice about our up coming leg of the trip.
The father daughter campers saw us off the next morning, as did another boater who had caught wind of our story. The lockmaster was also interested and apparently relayed the whole story to the next lock when he called ahead to tell them we were on our way.
The next lock was actually not a lock at all. When it was built, back in the 70's it was cheaper to build what they call a "marine railroad". Boats drive into the lock as usual, but the lockmasters help you position your boat under big belts. The entire frame of the lock lifts out of the water leaving your boat hanging high and dry with the nose of the boat resting on wooden slats. The suspended boats slowly chug their way up and over a hill, much like a roller coaster as it reaches the crest. Then, as the boats decend the hill, they are slowly eased back into the water. We had front row seats on this ride and our little Duroboat was swaying slightly in the wind. We half expected to go plummeting over the other side of Splash Mountain. The lockmasters assured us this engineering design is still completely safe. I would be even more nervous in a big expensive yacht.
As we left, upon request of the lockmasters, we sped away so they could see the "giddy-up-and-go" of a Duroboat.
Our last lock on the Trent Severn was pretty uneventful, but we did meet a guy who had gone from Port Severn to New York. He told us to look for his boat on the rocks as we left the lock. It was a 12-foot jon boat with a 15hp motor - that's impressive!
This was our last lock and the start of the Georgian Bay. We had read and been warned of this treacherous body of water. Shallow and full of rocky obstacles Georgian Bay is known for destroying props and severely damaging hulls. Less than 10 miles into the Bay, we went skidding to a stop and the engine cover flew forward into the boat. We had missed a channel marker, partially covered by overgrown weeds, and learned a scary lesson of how dangerous Georgian Bay can be. Motor and prop seem to be fine, except some scuffing and minor dents.
Further into the southern portion of the Bay we were faced with choppy water due to a southwest wind. To make the passage easier we waited for a large trawler that we knew was behind us in the locks. We followed in their wake for a calmer ride and added assurance that we wouldn't miss any more channel markers.
We needed to turn off for gas, and made a quick trip down to Penetanguishene. Also, by this time, the winds had picked up, we needed charts, and we were hungry. We tied to the public dock and headed to town for our first meal (besides peanut butter) in 24 hours.
Lunch was so good, but slow. This late in the afternoon, we decided it would be smart to spend the time to recoup and reorganize so we would be more prepared to tackle Georgian Bay in the morning. We sought the help of the American Great Loop Cruiser's Association to help us find a good source of information for tomorrow's crossing. They directed us to Amanda at Bay Moorings Marina.
We needed charts as our Navigation software did not cover this portion of Canada in the same detail as it had the US. While in the locks it had not been an issue but Georgian Bay was something else.
Set with charts and a place to dock, we cleaned up, took advantage of the rare Internet access, and spent the evening preparing for tomorrow. We huddled in sleeping bags and sweatpants, not to stay warm, but to armor our bodies against mosquitoes. We worked by the dim light of the computer and a pocket flashlight.
Our late 9am start felt really early. With only a couple hours of sleep, we changed back to swimsuits and Tyler drove us back to Bobcageon. The lockmaster teased us about our late start and we finished our fist lock well after 10am.
Still tired we locked through as usual, and talked about the previous days adventure and our new Canadian friends. About 5 locks into our day the lockmaster said to us "so I heard you guys went out last night." Surprised, we asked how he knew. He replied, "lockmasters know everything" and that's how our conversation ended.
It's an unusual feeling to meet strangers who already know you, but it's also comforting to know there are folks watching out for us and our boat.
We are spending another night camping at a lock wall, but time to blog and early bedtimes tonight are okay.
The lock wall at Swift Rapids is nice. There are several other boaters staying here this night, included a father and daughter. We told them about our trip and asked questions about the upcoming final leg of the Trent Severn.
This morning, as we locked through, a squirrel splashed into the water about 5 feet away from the boat. I've never known squirrels to swim, so I can only assume that he didn't see the edge of the lock tank. He immediately swam to the wall and crawled the 90 degree incline clinging to the mossy side.
Today we reached the most beautiful part of the Trent Severn. There are houses on their own islands, a church that is accessible only by water, and gorgeous smooth rock clusters. People swim out to the rocks and lounge on them to bask in the sun.
At one of the locks two guys in ski boat pulled in behind us. By the third time we locked through together we had an invitation to go wakeboarding. We've been on a pretty tight schedule, but we didn't hesitate to accept the offer. Wakeboarding is one of the things we've missed most about this summer. In summers prior, our boating has centered on water sport, not travel.
We followed the guys to find a smooth spot off of the channel, and used our Sand Spike gear to secure our boat. We joined Adam and Tyler, two Trent University business students, on their boat. We each took a few runs while those in the boat discussed serious topics like, Canadian accents, the use of the word "eh" and the songs under consideration for our summer play list.
Adam and Tyler are both good wake boarders and water-skiers. They are in great shape from boarding nearly every day after work. Elizabeth and I, on the other hand, were shaky and out of breathe when we drug ourselves up on the swim platform. Apparently waiting until the middle of August to break your body into boarding is not the best idea, and I'm sure our diet of mostly fried comfort food hasn't helped either.
Wakeboarding was a needed break, but we felt pressure to get back to the locks. We are running out of time and money, so to help insure that we are able to finish the loop, we have been committed to making strong progress everyday.
Tyler and Adam escorted us to the next lock – Bobcageon, It was later in the afternoon and becoming more obvious that we would not make it to our predicted stop before the locks closed at 7pm. We were not interested in spending another night eating peanut butter at a secluded lock wall. Instead, we opted to leave our boat in Bobcageon and spend another night in Peterborough. Tyler and Adam offered to drive us back to Bobcageon in the morning.
I explained our plan to the Lock Master and bought a dock permit, while Elizabeth secured the boat and threw our stuff into Tyler's boat. The four of us took Tyler's boat back through the locks we had passed through this morning. Several of the lock workers recognized us and ribbed us with various versions of the same "aren't you headed the wrong way" joke.
It was the wrong way, but definitely the right decision - Tyler and Adam were excellent tour guides. They drove us past the house the movie "Cheaper by the Dozen" filmed, and passed another house with an amazing view made of all glass. They also made a stop at Burleigh Falls to ride the waterfall. After anchoring the boat we swam up to the rocks midway down the falls where we jumped in and let the current push us back out and down stream. Our tour ended just before dusk with another round of skiing.
Elizabeth and I were both excited to have a real shower and a night away from the tent. They found us a place to crash at their house. We ate pizza, drank beer, and listened to music. Canadian guys are alright, eh?
We left Frankford early to get to the next lock in time for the first opening. The Lockmaster in Frankford never did make us pay for our tie up to the wall. The evening before he gave us maps, a bathroom key, and some free pens. The savings was greatly appreciated.
We made it to the lift lock just past Peterbourgh. Lock 21 on the Trent Severn is the highest hydraulic lift in the world, there are only two like it in North America. We drove into the giant tray of water, and when the tray above us was filled with water it lowered as we ascended. The lock works like a huge balance and a fun ride.
We got a ride to Peterburough from a lock worker. We ate dinner at a brewery in town and visited the Tank House patio for some live country music. We talked with the bartender and DJ then headed back to the boat.
On the way back we decided to visit the highly recommended Tim Horton's for an authentic Canadian experience. We ordered a breakfast sandwich and a Diet Coke. When it came time to pay they told us they only take cash. Having used most of our cash a few stops back we scrounged together some money. I gave the lady the money which included two 1951 Canadian dollar bills. My Aunt Lynn had found them in a drawer and gave them to me before we left on the trip. The woman working insisted that I not pay with the bills because they are rare and no longer issued. So I kept the bills and the woman working covered the last $2.50 of our meal. We ate our sandwich, and trekked home to the wall. Hooray for the staff at Tim Horton's.
Welcome to the Trent Severn Waterway
We had to cross parts of lake Ontario from where we exited the Rideau to the start of the Trent- Severn Waterway. Lake Ontario was smooth as glass. We made great time and were amazed at how clear the water was.
Surprised to see a police boat driving next to us while we were going about 25mph, we figured we'd better stop to see what they wanted. When our boat was in neutral the police boat approached for a safety check. Luckily we had our lifejackets, watertight flashlight, and whistle all on board. It must have been a slow day on the job.
We were back up to speed in no time and soon entered the first lock on the Trent Severn Waterway.
We made it to Frankford well before the locks closed, and could have traveled on but we made Frankford a stopping point because we had heard so much about a Chinese buffet in town. Chinese food sounded great to Katie and I as did the buffet part, so we quickly got the boat organized and walked into town. The buffet was in a house on the town's main street, which gave it some charm. We left the restaurant wondering why so many had recommended it, but were full none the less.
8.11.09 – 8.12.09
Our time on the Rideau River was longer than expected because of all of the locks. We spent most of our nights tied to a lock wall eating peanut butter sandwiches. The daily plan was always to get at far as we could while trying not to bypass cities that could offer something more exciting than a peanut butter sandwich.
When we arrived in Smith Falls we stayed at Victoria Park Campground. There, Katie and I were well received by the owner, Dave. The best part about our say was that we were finally able to shower. From the campground we walked to dinner and the grocery store, and then slept in the tent on the boat.
Continuing towards Kingston we were hung up at a flight lock. While waiting the hour and a half to lock through it started to rain. After being in the sun all day the rain was too cold to enjoy. It was still very sunny but we sat in our swimsuits under an umbrella.
When it was finally our turn to enter the flight lock we were packed in tight. Our boat –the smallest of them all was one of the last to enter. In one of the locks we actually cut the motor while other boats in the lock manually maneuvered us into a small space in the middle of the pack --under the bow and anchor of a huge trawler. The crowded locks made the daily travels more exciting, but slowed travel.
I woke up when water splashed on my forehead this morning. It started raining early this morning and our tent is far from water proof. It can wick-a-way a light sprinkle, but eventually water seeps through. This was the case this morning and our bedding was beginning to puddle.
We loosely packed our sleeping bags in garbage bags (instead of tight rolls) hoping they would air a little throughout the day, and headed to a breakfast shop for shelter and eggs.
We waited out the rain and fog and finally left around 10am.
Disappointed with her hair, and without a shower, Elizabeth shampooed in the bathroom sink at the lock before leaving.
Once on our way, we had about and hour run to our first lock on the day – the largest lock we've seen in a while at approximately 60ft. Our next set of lock where more than 4 hours away in Ottawa.
The water conditions varied depending on the direction of the river bends relative to the wind, but the wind was coming from the west - the same direction we where traveling most of the time.
Aware that the locks close at 7:30 and forewarned to arrive at the lock 3.5 hours prior to close, we began to worry that we wouldn't make it to the lock before 4pm. Knowing we'd be late, we tried anyway and arrived just before 5pm. There was a healthy crowd of other boats and a 45 minute wait, but we were relieved to get through.
The Ottawa flight locks were 8 locks and took us about 2 hours to complete. We tied up to the wall for the night which was right down town. We had no bathrooms so we had to pretend to be hotel guest while we were roughing it across the street. With all of the traffic noise and early building construction, sleep was less than peaceful.
Canal de-Saint Anne de-Bellevue
Spirits on board were low today. We are running short on time, money, and sleep. This coupled with colder weather, unexpected lock delays, and a language barrier have made travel a lot tougher.
We had finally made a left turn leaving Sorel which meant we were that much closer to Lake Michigan. As we headed south towards Montreal Katie and I noted that many locks we would have to go through before making it to the Ottawa River. Our guide book had mentioned an alternate route just north of Montreal, but didn't give details. This is what prompted us to try taking a route that headed down the west side of Montreal. We paid close attention to channel markers in order to traverse the shallow waters. At one point we arrived at a caution sign that warned against strong currents. We continued forward thinking that the well marked area must indicate that many travel the area. We made it through no problem, but it was very unnerving.
After 10 miles of slow travel we arrived at a dam. We had to turn around. The worst part about turning around was the anxiousness that came with knowing we would have to travel through the strong current section again. Now we were traveling with the current, but that made for a wild ride through the caution section. The boat took another beating, which made me cringe. 10miles north of the dam we were back on track.
As we approached Montreal we were fighting strong currents and rough water. We got through the series of locks. Stopped for fuel and made a 20 mile journey to Saint Anne-de-Bellevue. After finishing our last lock we paid for a spot to tie up on the lock wall. We were amongst many other boats tied to the wall, but by the time we came back from dinner they had all departed and we were left alone.
We couldn't have asked for better water this morning. Lake Champlain was smooth and friendly the whole way from Burlington to the Canadian boarder. We stopped at the first marina we found after reaching Canada. The music playing in their shop was so loud we could hardly hear the employee's answers to our few questions about the route ahead. – Communication was made even more difficult by her heavy French accent – Quebec, we hadn't thought much about the language change until now.
Eventually the river narrowed to a canal with cement walls on both sides, and onlookers hanging over the guard rails above. We didn't realize we would be traveling through locks so soon. Before heading through the lock we backtracked to a marina to get some maps, find a cash machine, and snacks for the boat. Everybody was speaking French. We had been expecting to hear French but we hadn't expected not to hear English. With just a few words of French in our repertoire we were out of our element.
We pulled up to our first Canadian lock. It was much smaller than we were used to. We spent the next few hours traveling a narrow canal in and out of 9 locks. Many of the locks and bridges we passed through were manually opened and closed. The locks were usually ready for us, no need to talk on the radio or wait. It was great service. There was a busy bike path that ran along the entire length on the canal, so there was always a crowd watching as we locked through. Lots of opportunity to tell our story.
When we left the last lock we found a marina shortly after. Paid for gas by the liter, split a pizza at the marina's restaurant, and went to bed feeling guilty we didn't know more French.