Thu, June 8: Started on the Trent-Severn Waterway! This series of canals, rivers, lakes and locks connects Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay, part of Lake Huron. The waterway is 241 miles in length (with many side-trip options) and includes 44 locks and 39 swing bridges. Building of the waterway began in 1833. The full waterway wasn’t completed until 1920. The locks are mostly 120’ by 32’. In comparison, the Erie and Oswego locks are 328’x45’, the Tombigbee locks are 600’x110’ and the American Sault Ste. Marie Locks are 1,200’x110’! Many of the locks are operated by hand – literally! You’ve probably seen the old movies with oxen going in a circle to grind the flour, etc. Well, once you’re in the lock, the lockmasters push a bar in a circle to close the lock, open the fill pipes (often also cranked by hand) and then go to the far end to push a bar in a circle to open the lock door to exit! Hasn’t changed in 100+ years!!
I must say that the Canadians have been unbelievably friendly and helpful. At the first lock, I had a boat hook and a short piece of line like what we used on the Erie and Oswego Canals. The lockmaster gently said that that wouldn’t work…a 15-20’ length of line is what I needed. So, grabbed my good line and got set. Now, lock cables can be somewhat slimy and not so nice to lines, so by the second lock I was set with an older line that had seen better days! At each lock, there is time to chat while the lock is filling and the lockmasters generally go to each boat to check if everything’s alright and stay for a chat. It’s also way relaxed as far as people getting off and on the lock walls – completely acceptable. Heck, drop the gang off before you enter the chamber and then have them rejoin you at the top once the water has gone up!
One of the other things that was unexpected was the presence of weeds! We first encountered weeds at the Trent Port Marina (not too bad but surprised us). We went through six locks today and some of the weed masses were impressive – almost little islands! I asked about this in one of my chats with a lockmaster and he said it improves as the number of boats pass through and chop up the masses. I guess this is why this area is a prolific fish spawning area with many shallow, weedy little bays off to the sides. Periodically, we would stop and reverse our propellers to shed the weed mass wrapped around.
Lock hours are short during the weekdays (10am-4pm) so we only made it through Lock 6, all of 7.3 miles of the 241-mile waterway. Two boats tied to each wall and it was a nice stopping point. Since Canada is celebrating 150 years of canal operation, most wall docking fees are waived. The wall above Lock 6 conveniently offers electrical hook-up so we happily paid the $9.80 CAN (about $7 US) for electric. We biked the couple blocks to Frankfort, stumbled upon a rails-to-trails bike path and biked 7 miles up to Lock 7 and back. Not much in town but a nice grocery store. There were picnic tables and grills on the lock walls so we grilled beef medallions – yum! Great day.
Fri, June 9: As we headed up through Locks 7, 8, 9, 10, 11/12, the landscape became rolling hills sprinkled with big, old graying barns and a few fields. Lock 11/12 is a flight lock meaning that the locks are joined: you enter one chamber (Lock 11), it gets filled and you move directly to the next chamber (Lock 12) and it gets filled and you move out upriver. Since these locks are quite narrow, the vertical difference feels huge! We tied up on the wall above Lock 12 took a short walk to suspension walking bridge overlooking Ranney Falls and connecting to Ferris Provincial Park. Quite the bridge.
We continued on with five more locks in quick succession. Lock 13, 14, 15 and then flight locks 16/17 which are 27 feet each! We tied up at the wall above Lock 17, Healey Falls. We were the only boat. It was a short bike ride across the bridge to Healey Dam and Falls, largest dam on the Trent River. Once again, Canadians are much more relaxed about restrictions and access is unlimited to walk the dam. Pretty cool, actually.
Then began the battle with mosquitos…not too many but annoying and we have been blissfully (mostly) bug-free until now! Left windows open; we should have known better.
Sat, June 10: So, we have made it 36 miles in 2 days…this waterway may take longer than expected. It was another beautiful day. It’s spring in Canada: fish are visibly spawning in the shallows, a beaver swims across the river, pollen coats the boat, etc. The day starts out with the waters being waterski-calm. We pass through Lock 18 and a large, shallow lake named Rice Lake named the wild rice harvested by Native Americans. By mid-day, boat traffic has picked up (it is Sat and beautiful weather). We go through Lock 19 (only two locks today) and pull into Peterborough Marina mid-afternoon and it is party city! There is live music at the marina, boat races nearby, a beerfest scheduled for the evening…First order of business is installing our refrigerator. The new one arrived weeks ago with the wrong frame set. We had the correct frame set shipped to Peterborough. Several hours later and a few choice swearwords about boat designers (one can barely fit two hands into the access panel to connect the wiring let alone see what you’re doing) and our fridge is up and going and we are gone to the beerfest! I must say that we have been spoiled by a top-grade craft beer maker (Ben) and a master barbeque competitor (Patrick) because, although good, the beer and smoked ribs wouldn’t make me come running back!
Sun, June 11: We were the first Looper to arrive (and depart) the Peterborough Marina. I expect that once the Erie and Oswego Canals are reopened, more will be right behind us. We fueled up because from this point on, diesel is far and few between. Lock 20 is considered the forgotten lock because everyone focusses on Lock 21: the Peterborough Lift Lock. This lock is an engineering marvel; opened in 1904, it is the world’s highest hydraulic lift lock! There are two pans which alternate going up and down 65 feet like a balance beam scale. Boats enter both pans. One extra foot of water is added to the upper pan (equivalent of 130 tons) which causes it to “sink” (speed controlled by a valved piston) while the other pan is raised up. Then, the process is reversed. The raising/lowering is quick – about 2 minutes!
It was a busy locking day: moved onto Locks 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26. Above Lock 26 and 27, the water was much clearer and there were a couple of beaches. Above Lock 27, the scenery became spectacular! It’s the Canadian shield area where there are numerous rocky islands, many, many with small cottages, twisting channels – can’t say enough. The Stoney Lake area is some of the prettiest scenery we have seen on our trip! Lock 28 is combined with old Lock 29 and offers a quick, hydraulic lift of 24 feet and then just a couple more miles to Lovesick Lock 30. Lovesick Lake is named for an Indian boy spurned by a red-headed Irish girl. It is a unique lock because it is an island amid a dam and four spillways, only accessible via boat. We tied up above Lock 30 for a quiet evening alone at the lock wall.
Mon, June 12: We woke up early because somehow a few mosquitos managed to find us and it was a losing battle. We’re back to short lock hours (10-4) so we slowly went the 6 miles up to the next lock, tied up at the blue line below the lock (the blue line indicates that you want to go through the lock as opposed to just hanging out at the lock wall). We walked around the small town of Buckhorn (not much to see) and returned to the boat well ahead of the 10 am opening for Lock 31. Just before Lock 32, the waterway became a narrow, low cliff-walled channel lined with beautifully-kept houses. Then, it was another large, 15-mile lake crossing and into the channel for Lock 33, Fenolon Falls. We tied up above the falls in mid-afternoon. This is the last lock wall with power in the waterway. We will have to find a marina in a day or so.
Fenolon Falls is a nice little town (yeah, probably shouldn’t have stopped at the antique store…a little less storage room on the boat…) but the best part was dinner at The Perch Restaurant. It is literally perched alongside the falls and offer the best dining view I have ever experienced! The food was alright but view was memorable. It is hot and sticky here and rather than going back to the boat for an early evening, we took the advice from the woman at the Chamber of Commerce and biked the lake-side rails-to-trails path to the north. Good advice.