Saturday, August 1, 2009

2nd Year: Rideau Canal Kingston to Ottawa

Saturday, July 25, 2009
Our first day headed up the 126 mile Rideau (Reed-O) Canal to Ottawa from Kingston.

Chase & Andy cranking the lock open manually
We’ll traverse  14 locks taking us up 165 feet, and then down 274 feet via 32 locks.  We’ll travel in 5 feet of water and need to clear 22 feet in height as we cruise along.  Indians used the route originally, then forts and trading posts built up along the way.  Later, with fears that we, the U.S., would invade Canada, construction began in 1827 to build the actual Canal, with fortifications.  We never did ‘invade’, but the Canal became a commercial success immediately, just as the Erie Canal did. Now, 166 years later, mostly only recreational craft use the waterway.  The locks are still operated manually by strong summer job college students and some permanent Canal personnel.  Sometimes the boaters help out too!

Early on an OOPS moment as we missed a green marker and when into the wrong channel.  About the time both Chase and I spoke at the same time, “I think that was a GREEN”, we touched bottom.  Andy was able to back us outta there and around the correct side.  Here in Canada some channel markers are painted with a red or green line around them.  This one had some black circle thing on it and we did not recognize it as a channel marker at first – took us a few seconds to realize what that funny sign was!  We won’t make that mistake again!

Waiting in line to enter the lock

Inching up closer to enter the lock
As  we cruised along -- would you believe – we became part of a record breaking busy day on the Locks today…especially as to the number of LARGE boats locking through!  It took nearly seven hours just to get through Kingston Mill Locks - #46 – 49 and we cruised only a total of about 7 miles from Kingston Harbor through these locks.

The grounds around the Canadian locks are beautiful, as are the old lock walls stair stepping upwards   We had plenty of time to sight see around the locks, touring the old lock houses and reading the history on the numerous signs  Finally, our turn after about a three hour wait.  We jammed into the lock under the direction of the Lock Master who does his math to see who fits where and on what side and in and out we go.  We are a bit nervous, especially with all the boats just a foot or so off us and little boats squished in the middle, tied up to the larger boats.
Crowded lock.  Sharon cleating off temporarily due to long wait.

Note the little boats holding on to us!! Can't get to the lock wall due to crowds

Andy sitting on left side of bow, striking up conversations with other boaters
 It becomes hard to keep our boat still, especially if the wind picks up as we get higher in the lock.  Our boat behaves like a giant sailcloth when the wind hits the fly bridge, the canvass and the boat itself and off we move.  Chase and I are getting better grabbing a cable around which to hook our lines bow and aft and hanging on (using cleats to assist us),but it is still difficult.

The huge big round orange fenders we bought are certainly worth every penny we spent on them as they keep us off the tapering lock walls that can scratch and gouge our boat.  It is also necessary to keep our other 4 fenders tied on the opposite side – to keep the other
 boats OFF us.

LOVE these huge orange fenders!

As we exited the last lock, we begged our Lock Master to allow us to tie to the blue line overnight as we knew we had no place else to stay further on, given the hour and given a potential storm was on the way and we did not want to anchor out.  She relented, stressing that we must be out of there before 8:30 AM when the locks open.  NOT a problem and gratefully, we tied off on the blue line.

The blue line is significant in that it is the area where boats tie up to await their turn to go into the lock.  The locks do not have radios, so tying up is the only way the Lock Master knows who is coming in and how many!

Sunday, July 26, 2009
In the water she went!!

Nothing harmed, just her pride
Off the blue line by 8:00 and on our way to Jones Falls, 22 miles and seven locks away.  Again, it is a week end and the locks are as crowded and the waits as long as yesterday.  We don’t care – the process is so interesting to watch….we hang out as does everyone else, including tourists and locals who come down to watch all the action.

Action we got today, as a woman fell OFF her boat right behind us as she was trying to grab the cable.  She managed to swim to another boat beside them and climb back to her boat.  We got the pictures, which we will email her as a memory or ‘blackmail’ by her husband who could not stop laughing once he saw she was alright.

The locking crew had quickly lined the lock walls (we were way DOWN in the lock at that time) with those orange life preservers in hand and stopped all other boats from coming in.  Pretty  professional but  pretty scary too….If I fell off our large boat, the odds would be good I could be crushed between the wall and the boat….you should see how smushed the large orange fenders get when under the pressure being smashed against the lock wall….  The lady was lucky, her boat was much smaller (maybe a 22 foot runabout type) and she would have been able to push it off her if need be….

The scenery between the locks is spectacular – clear dark water and islands everywhere with tall green trees. Lots of cottages or larger homes everywhere and nothing else.   Even on the lakes we cross there is little in the way of boat traffic – just fishermen in small bass boats for the most part.

Chase using the bellows
After locking through the set of 3 locks in Jones Falls and then the last one, a bit separate from the others, we tied to the Park dock for the night.  A delightful place, with a beautifully restored lock house, complete with woman in period costume working on the loom and a blacksmith shop.  The blacksmith lets kids, including Chase, flame the fire with bellows and he makes them a old fashioned nail to take with home.

  Another couple, Wendi and Dale, from the Ottawa area, docked beside us and restored our faith in the Canadian boaters.  They were most pleasant and we had a delightful evening sharing wine and stories.

Monday, July 27, 2009
A reminder to Andy that this lifestyle is all about the JOURNEY and not the destination….we decided to stay another day here.  I am tired – that locking is hard work and just want to veg.  That we did, most of the day.  We watched the action back at the locks, hiked about a little and Chase swam in the rapids here.  Two boatloads of French Canadians needed a space, so we invited them to raft off our boat, and to access shore by climbing on and over our boat – all of which they did.  No ugly Americans here! They are still a bit reticient…even our ‘new’ Canadian friends, Wendi and Dale, had not so complimentary things to say about the French Canadians….Kinda funny and reassuring to know I am (a) not imagining behaviors and (b) not alone in my thinking!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Today we cruised18 miles through Sand Lake, Opinicon Lake and Newboro Lake and up 4 separate locks (no flights of steps) into Big Rideau Lake – the largest Lake on the Rideau Canal. We passed through the highest point on the Rideau Canal – 407.5 feet above datum.  Now that we are going ‘down’ towards the sea, the channel markers have changed from red on right to red on left.  We think we need to mark something red/green so we don’t forget and turn the wrong way in a channel…
Sharing a lock with Boy Scouts

Even canoes tie up like the big boats!

We tied up to Wendi and Dale’s private mooring ball “Floating Interest” they had so graciously offered to us.  I think we are more comfortable at the mooring ball rather than dropping the anchor as there is so much rock around.  We dinked our way around several of these islands to the little village of Portland to kill some time and grab an early dinner.

Chase and I went snorkeling off the boat upon our return.  Given the later hour and cold water, I opted for my full body wet suit.  Kids don’t seem to notice the cold!  Not much to see except weeds and some little plain jane fish….Not like snorkeling in the Caribbean…ah well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009
An uneventful day cruising to Smith Falls through 3 locks and 20 miles of follow the channel carefully through twists and turns.  We bumped a couple of times – no idea what it was, but at least a ‘soft’ bump.  Smith Falls, located about halfway between Kingston and Ottawa, is fairly large – compared to the towns we’ve been through thus far.  We were able to pump out for $20 vs the $5 tip in the U.S. and unfortunately were mislead about where to dock for the evening.  Seems the Victoria Campground docks are NOT honoring the Parks mooring permit and we got charged $35 for the night.  First time I’ve seen bad information in the Waterway Guide 2009 version.  In search of ice cream for the men folk (town was OUT of ice cream – awaiting a delivery would you believe!) we found a little restaurant that had been recommend and enjoyed European food, including crepes, snitzel and goulash.

Thursday, July 30, 2009
Four locks and 14 miles later, we docked in The Pond at Merrickville, my favorite village thus far!  This is a very old village with a great Canal museum housed in one of only two remaining totally intact, original Blockhouses.

The Pond at Merrickville

Quaint, charming town of Merrickville

Artists populate the town, complete with three glassblowers working away in the heat.

Andy & I enjoyed an early dinner (Chase wanted to watch TV) about a block from the boat on the main street, sitting outside.  We shared a platter of duck pate, brie, fruit, nuts, beets, pickles and fresh warm bread.  To die for it was so very good!  The buildings are so old (1700’s) throughout the town and so interesting to see.  A delightful afternoon strolling around.

Friday, July 31, 2009 to August 1, 2009
Traveling through rural countryside today, 10 locks and 31 miles, we got ‘stuck’ in Long Island. .  While traversing the three locks, the lockmaster informed us all that the Pretoria Bridge just before Ottawa had just broken and no boat could get under it.

Shortly thereafter he informed us there was no room at any marina nor at any wall between here and Ottawa.  He allowed all of us boats ‘stuck’ there to tie to the Blue Wall (usually a No No) for the duration – expected to be a several day wait until repairs could be completed.  We settled in, disappointed at not being able to get to Ottawa, where we had planned to stay for at least five days of sightseeing… we still have the deadline looming of August 14, when Chase flies from Montreal back to Oklahoma City.

Upside is that Chase caught several bass from the boat, one of which was a keeper.  I hacked the fish up (how did my filet knife get so dull – I’ve only used it one time!!) for tomorrow’s dinner.  I also finally located my fly fishing gear aboard, studied up on how to cast and got the gear ready so I could challenge the kid to a fishing contest tomorrow.

Mostly French Canadians tied up here.  We are more than friendly to them and still get icy type responses in return.  The Canadians, minus the French, are great and speak poorly of their French countrymen.  Generally speaking, they do not like the French Canadians.  What is confusing to us, as outsiders looking in, is trying to figure out how all this came about.  This country was/is British, yet they have this French component.  There was a war between the Canadians and French here in Canada and the French LOST.  Now, many many years after the French lost their battle to take over Canada,  Canada is officially bi-lingual with everything at the Federal level required to be spoken in French then English – meetings, public ceremonies, all paperwork, road signs, everything.  This situation, translated to the US, would be analogous to the Civil War and having our country now bi-lingual.  Imagine, speeches in Congress would be bi-lingual with the Northern and Southern languages spoken.  “ Now, listen here, youze guys, take a vote” followed by “Hey, ya’ll, time to vote”.  All of this is NUTS.

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