Friday, July 10, 2015

Arrival in Canada

June 22-29

Days 223-230c

After sitting out a couple of rainy days, we finally turned Bama Dream north into Canadian waters. Clearing customs was no problem, then it was on to the Chambly Canal. As this was our first canal system in Canada it was time to purchase our season pass for the Canadian Parks system. The pass enables boaters to travel through any of the historic canals that connect the rivers and lakes across the eastern section of Canada. The locking pass and mooring pass combine to provide boaters the opportunity to experience this beautiful country at a leisurely pace. While paying for the pass is a relatively simple procedure that can be accomplished at the first lock the cruiser enters, it was also the first chance we had to use our bank debit card after entering Canadian waters. You guessed it! The second we had crossed into a foreign country our cards were instantly shut down. So, here we are tied off in the first lock with cards that won't work and phones that are not supposed to be used. Our first priority was getting our passes so that we did not block the lock any longer than necessary. We cringed and turned my phone on to call our bank. They were extremely helpful and in a matter of minutes we were on our way. As we progressed through the nine locks of the Chambly Canal we soon discovered that, unlike the locks we had experienced up to this point, locking through the historic canals in Canada is a spectator sport. There have been crowds watching our advance through the canal at virtually every lock. We have become Public Relations specialists for the AGLCA (America's Great Loop Cruisers Association), as we have repeated the story of our trip an unbelievable number of times. The Chambly Canal, opened in 1843 creating a navigable waterway along the Richelieu River. Its primary role at that time was the shipping of forest products from Quebec's forests to the United States' growing market. The towpaths, that were originally used by horses as they towed barges through the canals, are now used by bicyclists and walkers enjoying the beautiful countryside and small villages along the canal.

Preparing to enter the first of nine locks that we will encounter as we proceed north on the Chambly Canal. There are also 12 bridges that must be moved in order for us to pass. Most are in conjunction with the locks, so they are controlled by the lock tender when it is time for us to enter the lock.

We are given the green light, signaling that it is time for us to enter the lock. Other than a few exceptions all of the locks in Canada have been declared National Historic Sites and are under the administration of Parks Canada. They are meticulously cared for, keeping them in their original design as much as possible. The gates are opened and closed manually by park employees who all seem to love their jobs. We have locked through about 60 locks since entering Canada and every one of the Parks Canada employees have been fantastic. They have helped with lines and proudly offered information all along the canals.

This narrow canal allows boaters to travel around the many rapids of the Richelieu River. On the right, the bike and walking trail that runs along the canal for several miles can be seen.

This is a swing bridge that is manually swung out of our way as we progress through the canal. No one pushes a button, they actually use muscle power to swing the bridge around on a circular track.

There has been quite a bit of rain this spring causing the river to overflow into a low area beside the canal. We are glad that we have decided to take this route through Canada even though it means more miles and more locks. There has been so much high water in the Erie Canal that many of the locks have been closed, causing Loopers who chose to go that route to be stuck for days at a time.

This momma duck and her brood don't appear to be the slightest concerned that Bama Dream is headed their way. At our speed, she probably knows that she has plenty of time to get across. Of course, Jess would stop in the middle of the canal to let them pass it he had to.

Each of the locks have a structure called a lock house. Some of them are actually homes where the lockmaster lives, others, like this one at Lock 8 are used by park employees during operating hours.

Using a system of gears the lock tender regulates the flow of water into the lock, then cranks open the gates to allow us to continue. We were  surprised at how many people seemed to be out enjoying this beautiful Wednesday until we learned that today is a holiday in Quebec. They were all celebrating Saint Jean Baptiste Day. When we tied up to the wall in Chambly, we realized we were going to be able to be part of the celebration. A huge party would be taking place right across the canal with a live band (performing in French), a huge bonfire and fireworks! 

The small town of Chambly has some beautiful old homes and some great pizza! We had a rain shower in the evening, but it did not dampen the spirits of the revelers.

I seem to be taking pictures of churches everywhere I visit. I can't help it, they are always some of the most stunning architecture, in the most beautiful settings.

The final 3 locks on the Chambly drop us abruptly into Lake Chambly This was my first triplicate lock and I will admit I was just a little nervous. O.K., maybe quite a bit nervous! Just like everything else that has caused anxiety on this adventure, this turned out to be no big deal too.

After locking through the single lock at Saint Ours we are headed into the St. Lawrence River. It has been a long day, and we are looking forward to a peaceful night on anchor. That is if we can find the right spot.

With the help of some local sailers who directed us to the perfect anchorage, we were ready to relax.
As the sun went below the horizon the willow flies started rising out of the lake and every gull within five miles came for supper. It was really quite an amazing sight.

After chugging along behind us, this Coast Guard ship finally overtook us, as we continued down the St. Lawrence River on our way to Montreal. Even though he passed us, we would soon meet him again when we entered the seaway.

As we approach the city of Montreal, commercial traffic picked up. With the St. Lawrence Seaway opening up the Great Lakes to huge commercial ships, this area is a very busy seaport.

The 1976 summer Olympics were held in Montreal. Olympic Stadium provides a rather futuristic backdrop for the commercial waterfront.

Turning into the St. Lawrence Seaway as we arrive in Montreal, we pass by Six Flags close enough to hear the screams from the daring roller coaster enthusiasts.

After negotiating the small locks of the Chambly, the 2 locks we must transit in the seaway seem huge. Especially when we have to make room for the Coast Guard ship that had passed us earlier in the day.

As we rise through the lock, the bridge has to be raised in order for us to escape.

Our anchorage for the night was close enough to the city that we could see the steady stream of planes preparing to land at Montreal's International Airport. 

I have found my favorite kind of lock. Saint-Anne-De-Bellevue Canal, as well as some others, provides a floating dock that the lock employees tie your boat to. They grab your lines when you enter the lock, tie you off on the dock, and you sit back and relax. My idea of the perfect locking system! Saint Anne's lock provides our entrance into the Ottawa River.

The deeper Carillon Canal consists of one lock that bypasses an area of rapids in the Ottawa River. This lock replaced a system of 11 locks that moved boats around the rapids in a series of small increments. Very glad they decided one could do the job. The gate system here (unique in North America) is a little imposing as it consists of a guillotine weighing 200 tons

I had to include this picture. I mentioned earlier that we have told the story of our adventure numerous times as we have progressed through the locks. This is a prime example. Jess is on the front of our boat explaining the Loop to the guy on the back of the boat in front of us, and Ralph is standing on the upper helm of his boat explaining the same thing to the guy above. They could have saved some breath if they had gotten the two guys on the same level.

We were told by many fellow travellers that we should not miss visiting the Chateau Montebello. I am very glad that we listened, because our afternoon walk around the grounds was lovely. This is the manor house that was built by Louis-Joseph Papineau in the mid 1800s. The estate is now a museum and is a National Historic Site of Canada.

The Chateau Montebello began as a hunting lodge for the privileged. It is now (supposedly) the largest log structure in the world! The hotel and resort complex encompasses 65,000 acres of forrested wildlife sanctuary and 70 lakes on the shore of the Ottawa River. 

The lodge is surrounded by beautiful landscaping. The grounds and flowers are meticulously cared for.

It is impossible to grasp the enormity of the structure in a picture. The main structure contains the central lobby with four wings leading off at right angles.

Small, well tended gardens are tucked into every corner. 

The focus in the lobby is this enormous floor to ceiling four sided fireplace. I can't imagine how much wood they could burn in just one evening during the cold winter months.

There are three levels that branch off from the main lobby. The structure reminded us of the lodge in Yellowstone National Park, only on a much larger scale.

After a quick lunch, we are back on our boats headed toward Ottawa. The overcast skies didn't make for a great picture, but as we passed by Chateau Montebello you can get an idea of how far the structure extends from each side of the central dome.

We can see Ottawa, Canada's capitol city, looming on our horizon. We will be entering the Rideau Canal, below the Parliament building, as we begin the next chapter in our voyage.

No comments:

Post a Comment