Here is another update from somewhere in Canada… Actually, we just arrived in Peterborough this afternoon after doing 7 locks, including the Peterborough Lift Lock. We only went 10 miles today, but because of the significant amount of waiting we had to do at a bunch of the locks it took most of the day. And for the first time in nine nights we actually are in a marina and tied up in a slip with power and water. Anchoring is actually much easier, but having power will allow us to charge things up a lot quicker. We have an inverter on board which allows us to charge laptops, VHF, make coffee (!) etc., but it’s nice to have shore power every once in a while.
It has been another interesting week, as I guess it should be. We think it actually has been a tough week physically and emotionally. Way back when, it sounded like a great idea to traverse the Trent/Severn Waterway. Now, we’re not quite so sure. Monday through today was better than last week, probably because we are getting a bit used to the locks and tying up. But even though we are doing better, we think taking a boat like ours at 41 feet long and having a 4’ 9” draft (how deep we are in the water) with only two people on board is a struggle. And we are absolutely blown away at the shallow waters we are in. We think it a luxury now when we see a depth of 18 feet! Most of the canals and rivers we are on are only in the 10 foot range. Even large lakes we cross are only 10 – 12 feet deep. Crazy! Especially coming from Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake. We have bumped bottom a few times, but it has only been sand as we were able to continue on with no problem (I hope!). Still an eery feeling, though!
We left Penetanguishene last week Wednesday morning and headed to Port Severn to begin the Waterway system. All went well and we made it to the first lock at Port Severn. Of course we didn’t really know how to do the locks, but we stopped there on the “blue line” and went in the office to pay and get registered. (The “blue line” is the cement wall where you pull up and tie off to at each lock that tells the lock staff you want to go through the lock.) Interestingly, right away they were waiting for us to go into the lock and get going. The staff there explained what was going to happen, and in the lock we went! There are huge cables extending down the wall – remember, we were at the bottom at that point and needed to go up – so that’s what we did. Sharon grabbed one at the bow and I grabbed one at the stern and wrapped our lines around them so we could slide the lines up as we rose.
It all sounds very simple, but it really isn’t! You have to maneuver the boat in and not go too fast, yet have enough speed to be able to steer. Then, the cables are not that easy to get a boat hook behind to grab, so you have to figure that out. I also then have to get the boat into neutral and grab a cable at the stern to hold us there, and then go back and shut the engine off, all while Sharon is holding onto the bow. Once we finally go up, we have to release our lines from the cables, push the boat away from the wall and motor out, all while not turning too sharp so the stern or dinghy hits the wall. Sheesh!
We actually did well for the first lock, and then the second one was actually the Big Chute. That is the one where our boat was lifted out of the water on a railroad kind of platform and then deposited back in the water after going up a hill and over a road. It actually went very well and we had no problems, but it was strange being on the boat while it was being lifted out of the water. Once we were back in the water we fired up the motor and away we went!
We did one more lock and then anchored in McLean Bay at the top of Sparrow Lake. We were successful for our first day, but it was a lot and we were tired! We dinghied Max to shore (Yes, we’re still doing that!) and went to bed early.
Thursday was another day on the locks. It went alright, but we had to deal with a swing bridge that didn’t open causing us to try and be stationary in a canal with only about 20 – 30 feet of room on either side of you (our boat is 41 feet long), only 6 – 8 feet of depth and a 0.5 knot current against us. It was an adventure! Thankfully we finally realized it was a 14 foot clearance swing bridge so we motored under it with no problem Good practice! We anchored in Simcoe Lake that evening as the winds were starting to pick up and rain was on the forecast.
Friday dawned early as we had to cross about 12 miles of Simcoe Lake. Immediately after leaving the lake there was a swing bridge we had to go through. It was in a breakwall area that once you entered, it was do or die. There was no place to turn if the bridge didn’t open. We tried hailing the bridge on the VHF with no luck, and even tried the 3 blasts of the horn all to no avail – the bridge didn’t open. Finally, as we had talked with another boat who said he would inform them we would be through shortly after him, and after circling a couple of times in the lake we entered the breakwall area hoping they would see us and it would open – and it did! Whew!
We then did three locks right in a row all in a span of about 3 miles, and they went well. The fourth lock went horribly. The wind was picking up from behind us and we ended up almost totally sideways in the lock. We managed to get it straightened out, but it was crazy. I even ended up losing my Bluetooth earphone into the water as we were trying to figure things out.
We ended up that night anchored off a Provincial Park, like our State Parks, and decided after a week like that that we would stay there until Monday morning in order to give ourselves rest. The weekends are a lot busier in the locks, and we just did not want to have to do more locks with even more boats around. It was a great place to anchor as we could dinghy to the Provincial Park boat launch and even used their showers in the campground. They also had marked trails that we took advantage of in stretching our legs.
We were so much more rested up and ready for the locks on Monday morning! After pulling anchor we crossed Balsam Lake, stopped at a marina for a pump-out and fill our water tanks, and we were off. We successfully went through three locks and even got to test out our new method of stopping ourselves at the blue line by using a midship line and forward throttle to “pull” the stern into the wall instead of having the stern go way out. Very nice!
We had wanted to stop on the mooring wall (a cement wall just before and after the locks where you can tie up for a few hours) for lunch and groceries in Bobcaygeon, but it was full causing us to go straight to Buckhorn Lake where we anchored for the night. Interestingly, hardly any of the many marinas on the Waterway have diesel. I had no idea! So, even though we still had over half a tank left, when I found a place in Buckhorn to get diesel we topped the tank off just before going on anchor. The small town of Buckhorn also had a Beer Store (in Canada you can only buy beer and wine from their Beer Store – they don’t sell any in their grocery stores) and a grocery store so we were able to stock up on groceries. We also treated ourselves by eating out at a quaint little restaurant right on the water’s edge – the first time in a month that we had eaten out!
Tuesday was a better day of going through locks as well. We wanted to get to Peterborough, but realized it was just too far with too many locks. So we opted to anchor after 4 locks in Katchewanooka Lake (say that 3 times really fast!). Come to find out, where we anchored was right in front of Lakefield College School where Prince Andrew attended. Apparently it’s quite a prestigious school! We didn’t stop in.
That brings us to today which I talked about at the beginning of this post. I should add that I tried so many times to shorten this post as I know I get wordy, so trust me that this is a lot shorter than my first draft.
Mechanical update: the tachometer is still working – Yay! The water strainer started to leak just a little, but the bilge is continuing to stay absolutely dry! I did find a somewhat troubling antifreeze leak in the engine in the past week. I think one of the clamps on a new engine hose we put on last fall was a bit loose. To make a long story short, I put a second clamp on it which seemed to work great, until I found the real culprit which was another clamp that was loose. Now that all the clamps are tight I have no more antifreeze leaking out. A good thing!
P.S. I have a number of short videos I’d love to get on Youtube, but even in the marina here I can’t find a strong enough wifi signal to post them! May have to look for a library or something to be able to get a strong signal. Will let you know when they are up!