Thursday, August 6, 2015

Trent-Severn Waterway

July 9-25

Days 240-256

I can't believe that we are now on the brink of entering our final lock system as we travel through Canada! This is one section of our adventure that we had anticipated with excitement, as well as a little trepidation. I was very anxious about navigating through the many locks, another 43 in the TSW, but so far my fears have been for naught. My captain has become so skilled at maneuvering Bama Dream that we have had no difficulties pulling up to the lock walls and attaching to our cables. Just as with everything else we have worried about, locking through has become no big deal! The Trent-Severn Waterway was built in bits and pieces over a 90 year period. It connects Trenton, Ontario with Port Severn on the shores of Georgian Bay, traveling a total of 240 miles through lakes, rivers, and canals. The TSW is used today almost exclusively by pleasure craft, as most of the locks are not large enough to be significant aids to commercial traffic. Like the Rideau, the canal is run by Parks Canada. Mooring walls are provided in park-like settings at most of the locks. Unlike the Rideau, there are only three locks that provide hydro (power), so unless boaters stop at marinas along the way, generators are a necessity. 

A stop at a marina for the night gives us an opportunity to catch up with some fellow loopers that we have met at different spots along the way. Actually, it seems that the most important reason for enjoying the comforts of a marina is to access their wi-fi! Being out of touch with family while traveling in the Bahamas, and now in Canada, is the most difficult part of this adventure.

We could step off our boat into this park at Trent Marina. They provide live entertainment every Friday night during the summer. The band was actually pretty good. It always seems a little strange to me to hear so much of our country music performed by Canadian groups. Jess says it is because we have the best song writers. 

Off we go into our last canal system. What wondrous sights will we experience over the next couple of weeks? This is called "cottage country" here in Canada. With Canada's highest populated cities located within a few hours driving time, many Canadians spend their summer vacations along the Trent Severn. We will definitely be sharing the locks and anchorages with many more boaters than we have to this point.

After 12 locks and only 30 miles we were ready for a short stop at Cambellford. We were told by so many of the lockmasters along the way to visit the bakery here, that we couldn't pass it by. It is quite evident that Cambellford caters to the boaters cruising these waters by the road (water) sign that we passed on our way to the town docks. The icons are just like the ones we have along our interstates letting us know what facilities are available at the exits.

Our local information was correct! The bakery was outstanding. Butter tarts are a Canadian specialty, and the raspberry ones we had here were some of the best we have tried. We enjoyed our breakfast there and returned later in the day to pick up some fresh baked bread to go with our dinner.

After negotiating Lock 17 the river opened into a small lake tthat looked so fishy we couldn't resist a night on anchor so that we could wet a hook. Jess and I both caught several nice bass just as the sun was setting on one more fantastic day.

The "cottages" along the TSW come in all shapes and sizes. Some are very large, modern, year round homes while others, in some cases right next door, are small weekend cabins. The landscaping in most cases is stunning, with the luscious green lawns and the vibrantly colored flowers.

After reading the fishing reviews for Rice Lake, we were ready to drop anchor and get the dink in the water. While the fishing did not live up to its' hype, the setting for Bama Dream was certainly well worth the stop.

Tied to the wall below Lock 19. Using the lock walls for overnighting has made the trip through the Canadian canals a breeze. We paid our locking and mooring fees way back when we entered the Chambly Canal, so long ago we forget that these moorings are not exactly free. In comparison with the cost of staying in marinas, they are quite a bargain. Not to mention the fact that it is like staying in a different park every day.

Spending the night on Lock 19 gave us the opportunity to visit Peterbourough where we picked up a few needed supplies, stretched our legs, and enjoyed a fun evening at the Porch and Pint with Ralph and Janet. Our walk provided us with close up views of the 250 foot Centennial Fountain, with its beautiful rainbow.

After going in search of an ATM the next morning, Jess and I decided a little breakfast was called for. Little did we know that we would fit right in with the local senior citizens, as they took turns providing live entertainment. Actually, I think we were the youngest people in the restaurant.

At Lock 20 we were joined by the tour boat that takes all of the unfortunates who don't have their own boats for an excursion that enables them to experience Lock 21. We felt a little claustrophobic, but the lock tenders squeezed us all in with no problem. 

The time has arrived. The TSW contains three locks that are not your typical canal locks. Lock 21 is the first of these. It is the world's highest hydraulic lift lock with a 65 foot vertical lift.  A hydraulic lift lock works like a simple balance beam scale. A boat enters a huge tank shaped like a giant cake pan. Parallel to that chamber, but 65 feet up is another chamber that contains boats coming down. The water in each chamber weighs 1,500 tons (330,000 gallons). When the upper chamber is filled with an extra foot of water, the increased weight in that tank forces the lower tank with its load of boats to rise. It doesn't matter how many or what size boats are in each pan; the boats displace their own weight. The lock opened in 1904, an engineering wonder in its day.

Our rearward view after reaching the top. Another one of those things that we stress over that ends up being no problem. It was like climbing into a huge bathtub and going for a ride. This turned out to be a very rainy and uncomfortable day for locking. Even with our Frogs we were wet to the bone by the time we reached Lock 24. They had recently added new showers, and I was certainly ready for an unlimited supply of hot water. Our 6 gallon hot water heater doesn't hold a candle to their 40 gallon one.

A stop at Youngs Point gives Ralph and Janet a chance to clean their dinghy before trying to repair a major leak. The bottom seems have started to separate causing for very wet feet every time they try to use it. Luckily we have a tube of PVC glue that will hopefully at least make their dink useable. While the guys worked on the dinghy, Janet and I browsed through the Lockside Trading Co. and the general store, where we found the absolute best cheese bread ever.

The many small lakes are connected by man-made canals, enabling boaters to traverse this portion of Ontario. In some areas the waterway is so narrow, that a warning must be given over the VHF radio to alert oncoming boats that you are headed their way in the channel.

Many of the islands are dotted with cabins. I was surprised to find this church perched on this rocky island, requiring its parishioners to arrive for services by boat. 

After a long day of locking and winding our way around numerous islands, we are glad to set the anchor and enjoy another stunning sunset.

One our favorite locks turned out to be Lovesick Lock 30. Even the lock tenders have to come to work by boat here. Jess and I fished in the current below the dam. We didn't catch anything to brag on, but little guys went for our bait on just about every cast. Of coarse Jess will say he did catch a few nice smallmouth. A killdeer had made a nest on the very tip of a dead tree that was hanging out over the water. Mom and Dad were very protective of their offspring every time we came too close, but we did get to see them peeking over the edge of the nest.

I won't call any names here, but this lock wins the award for the most slime on its walls. Not only that, but it had several pretty good leaks, too. Oh, where are those gloves I purchased just for the job of pushing us away from the wall when we are ready to leave the lock?

Our timing was perfect when we reached Fenelon Falls. There was still room for us on the wall and we were able to get power for the first time since we entered the TSW. It was also time to reprovision and do some laundry. The weather even cooperated by giving us two days of strong winds, so we weren't really wanting to move on anyway.

After having supper at the Cow and Sow we walked over to check out the falls that give this small town its name. It was getting a little late so my picture is dark. The dams and locks that were built to make the Trent Severn Waterway, changed the water courses in many places along the route. The areas where falls existed probably saw the most change, but they are still pretty. The development of hydro-electric  power was the initial reason these dams were built. As the years went by and more and more were added it became evident that with just a few more changes and additions the entire route from the Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario would become open to boat traffic.

Here we are once again with the trusty little red wagon. After it carried our laundry, a trip to the grocery store was next. The flowers are beautiful in all of the small towns we have visited.

Moving on through yet another small ditch. What a beautiful day! I have been surprised at how warm it is most of the time. Not near as hot as it is in Alabama right now, but warmer than I would like. At least it usually cools down nicely after dark. Of course that doesn't happen here until around 9:30.

I took this shot from the upper helm right out my side window. There were many places I could have reached out and touched the trees as we went by. We have definitely arrived in tree country. I love the blue spruces and the birches that line the hillsides.

Our second lift lock is the first lock that will begin our descent into the waters of the Georgian Bay still 70 miles away. As we went through the previous lock (Lock 35) we reached a unique milestone. At that point we had reached 598 feet in elevation above Trenton, which is the highest point in the world a boat can reach from the sea under its own power. Amazing!

As we enter Kirkfield Lift Lock 36 the view from our bow is quite thrilling. We are going to be dropped 49 feet, making this the second highest lift lock in North America, into Canal Lake.

Gud-Nuff moves slowly through the picturesque Hole in the Wall Bridge, constructed in 1905. We are now leaving Canal Lake, one of the man-made lakes along the TSW, and entering the Talbot River.

When we decide to call it a day there is always another wall to tie up to. The facilities have been outstanding with clean restrooms and lovely parks all along the way.  Portage Lock 39 has no public road access, making it a very quiet stop for the night.

All Loopers make a point of stating that the new friends they have made along the way has been the best part of this extraordinary adventure. We are no exception to this! Our stack of boat cards increased again when Dave and Gayle on At Last joined us at Lock 39. 

Jess and I tried for an early morning walk along the canal. We started on the shaded side and soon realized that mosquitoes also like shade. The locks don't open until 9:00 each morning, so we always have leisurely mornings when we are tied up below the lock.

We still got a nice walk in by crossing over to the sunny side of the canal. This is rolling farm country with plenty of clover for the bees and the butterflies.

After negotiating the open waters of Lake Simcoe we are once again in a narrow channel. We patiently waited for a train to go through this swing bridge before it could open for us to continue on to Lock 42. This bridge is so old the bridge tender had to cross over the bridge after the train went by, then climb a rickety staircase up to the control room where he had to crank a very loud engine in order to swing the bridge.

Canadians on Absolute Lee, shared some great local information with us about where the best anchorages are in the Georgian Bay. Many of our favorite stops have happened because of information we have picked up from locals. We enjoyed spending our evening at Lock 42 with them. Especially watching the excitement on Addeline's face as she caught her first fish!

Putting the final touches on another great meal, Jess is still the best grill master on the Loop!
At least on Bama Dream.

Arriving at Lock 43 with plenty of local cruisers means we will tie up to the blue line, while we wait our turn to lock through.Tying to the blue line means you are waiting for the lock tender to notify you when he is ready for you to take your place in the lock. It is usually first to arrive, first to enter, but sometimes if it is really busy they will fill the lock by boat sizes so that as many as possible lock through at a time. 

While waiting our turn in the lock, we took this opportunity to commemorate our voyages through the canals, by posing in the red Adirondack chairs that serve as the symbol for Parks Canada.

This beautiful tree studded, rocky coastline is the perfect terrain for the many summer cottages that dot the landscape. With a relatively short summer here, the Canadians know how to take advantage of every moment they have. Power boats of every size and style ply the waters, along with skidoos, canoes, and kayaks. The water is a little cooler than we are used to, but the locals (and Jess) have no problems enjoying it. 

After much anticipation, we have arrived at the Big Chute! Yes, in spite of what this may look like, it is actually Lock 44, commonly called the marine highway. At one time work was underway on a conventional lock at Big Chute. Then WWI happened and put a stop to many building projects. The marine railway was quickly built as a temporary measure in 1917. When it was time to replace the too small railway with a conventional lock in the 1970's, not only was it determined that the railway was helping to prevent the possible migration of a parasitic sea lamprey into Lake Simcoe, but it had also become a well loved historic icon of the TSW. The decision was made to enlarge the railway to accommodate the much larger boats traversing the canal system today.

We have observed how the Big Chute operates, and it is now time to take our place on the blue line in preparation for our turn in the famed Lock 44. The smaller vessels load first, then Jess guides Bama Dream into position. I am sure it was quite intimidating for the small cruiser on our starboard to watch us slowly advance to the point that we could no longer see them under the flare of our bow. With the guidance of the lock tender, Jess put us right in our slings.

The lock tender gives our props a free inspection after our stern clears the water. We actually had about 6 feet of Bama Dream hanging off the back of the railcar, as we relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

Our fully loaded railcar rises out of the water, as it follows its tracks up and over the hillside. The view from the upper helm was quite amazing!

Down we go!  Cruisers are entering the bay for their upstream ride. Unique in North America, the Big Chute Railway carries boats over a  57 foot drop in elevation.

As the tracks take us down to the bottom, the railcar slowly enters the water allowing the boats to float free. What a ride!

One more awesome anchorage before we leave the TSW. We found a beautiful little bay off Basswood Point in the Severn River. Jess had a little luck as we got the next morning off to a great start. There are several "cottages" along the shore here. Before we pulled our anchor, one of the landowners arrived for the weekend, by helicopter. Poor guy, I bet he isn't having near as much fun as we are!

Lock 45 opened in 1915, so the town of Port Severn sponsored a huge party to celebrate the centennial. One of the highlights of the festivities was the antique boat show. We enjoyed our own parade, as many of the boats cruised by us on our way into the harbor. 

A bittersweet moment as we enter the final lock on the Trent Severn. Our trip seems to be flying by at this point. We have now negotiated 131 locks, with still a few more to go. Our timing here was great with the crowds gathered to celebrate the opening of the lock we had quite a send off ourselves.

The Port Severn lock is the smallest and busiest lock in the system, making maneuvering through the chaos a challange that keeps Bama Dream's captain on his toes!

The Georgian Bay here we come! 

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