Thursday, July 26, 2012

Trent Severn Waterway, Part 2

July 12-14, 2012

As we prepared to leave Peterborough Marina, we were excited to be heading toward one of the highlights of the trip, the Peterborough lift lock. There were so many Loopers in the marina that we decided not to even try to be among the first to leave in the morning, as there would be an inevitable delay at the lock.  So we hung around in the morning, with Craig walking to town to do some errands and me staying on board to write a blog or two. At 12:30, the marina staff called ahead to the lock to check the status, and we were told if we came in the next few minutes, we could get right in.

First we went through the traditional lock just off the lake, and about a half mile later the famous lift lock came into view.  The Peterborough lock is the largest hydraulic lift lock in the world, with a 65-foot vertical lift.  The lock is a huge concrete fortress with two side-by-side chambers. Each chamber holds a container that looks like a giant rectangular cake pan.  As you approach the lock, one pan is down, at water level, and the other is 65 feet in the air, held up by a huge piston. We waited just a few minutes while the lock staff organized the two small boats that were entering the upper chamber from upstream (of course, we couldn’t see them as they were 65 feet overhead). Then we entered the lower chamber and tied our lines to the rails. 

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After the gate behind us locked in place, the lock crew let an extra foot of water (weighing 130 tons) into the upper chamber.  That extra weight caused the upper chamber to descend while our chamber – with our boat and us in it – rose.  Within about 90 seconds, we were at the top and the other chamber was at the bottom. It was a thrilling ride and an amazing thing to see, even more so from on board your own boat.  It was also one of the easiest locks we had experienced.  Once you’ve tied up, you can just stand back and watch it all happen.


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The very congenial lock staff offered to take pictures of us on the top. It was so much fun we really would have liked to turn around and do it again, but we kept moving along.


Because we got a late start, we didn’t go much further that day. We went through five more locks and stayed at the lock wall above Lock 26 at the town of Lakefield. We found Moon River, Memory Maker, Charlene Rae and Paddy Wagon already there.  We took the dogs for a walk into town where Craig’s built-in radar led us to the combination ice cream-fudge shop. It was a very hot day and the friendly owners insisted we bring the dogs inside for the air-conditioning and a bowl of water.  Good move on their part.  We ended up buying fudge and ice cream and two of those “cooler collars” for the dogs – you put them in the fridge overnight and supposedly they keep the dog cool for 5-7 hours.  Don’t know if it works, but the dogs don’t seem to mind them, so they can’t hurt.  We also bought red and white Canada flag lawn chairs. We’re really getting into the spirit, eh?  That night we also finally found our pickerel/walleye at a small family-owned restaurant.  It was good!

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The next morning we continued on, planning to stay at the Buckhorn lock wall for the night.  Along the way we passed through some very narrow places and several beautiful lakes.

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Most of the lakes and rivers of the Trent Severn are lined with cottages.  Some are small and rustic, others are new and huge.  Many are the only house on a small island.  “Cottaging” is a way of life up here.

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This was an unusual “cottage.” It was a glass box with no curtains or shades and just a few interior walls for privacy.  Its deck looked like a giant round aluminum patio table, and the house had what appeared to be a stuffed miniature horse in the front window. We could see the woman in the house making the morning coffee. Craig thought it looked hideously out of place, but I thought it was probably pretty neat from the inside looking out.


We also passed St. Peter’s-on-the-Rock Anglican Church, built in 1914 and still holding Sunday services, but only in July and August.  The church has a small boat dock for the cottagers who come to worship.


We also passed through several pretty locks that day. The first, Young’s Point, had a little gift and ice cream shop beside the lock.  The local ice cream in this area is Kawartha, and their pink cone signs are everywhere.  We have done enough sampling to give our stamp of approval!

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An exceptionally picturesque lock was #30, Lovesick Lock.  There are two local legends about how Lovesick Lake and its lock got their name.  One version is that they are named for the tragically unrequited love of Polly Cow, the beautiful daughter of Chief Handsome Jack Cow, a native chief in the early 1800s. The other theory is that a young native man was rejected by an immigrant Irish girl and he paddled off to an island to die of a broken heart until his friends found him and brought him home.

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Either way, today Lovesick lock is a beautiful spot on a small island.  The lockkeepers have to take a boat to work.  We considered tying up and walking across the dam to take a walk in the adjacent Wolf Island Provincial Park.  But after the lockmaster told us about the overgrown, unmarked trails, the bears and the poison ivy, we decided to give it a pass. It was pretty to look at, though.

That afternoon we tied up on the wall above the Buckhorn lock, a justifiably popular spot. We had lunch at an outdoor, dog-friendly restaurant just beyond the lock wall.  Joey enjoyed sneaking bits of poutine (french fries with cheese curds and gravy) from the nice ladies at the next table.  They asked the server for a doggie box to send their leftovers home with us.


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After lunch and a walk into town, David and Barbara from Memory Maker told us about a public swimming hole they had discovered just past our boats.  So all of us went for a refreshing swim on another hot day.

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After docktails with the other Loopers, Craig grilled steaks and we had a wonderful picnic right next to the boat.  Buckhorn was a great stop!


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Next, on to Bobcaygeon and a visit from friend Kathy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Trent Severn Waterway, Part 1

July 7-11. 2012

The next week or two of our trip would take us through the Trent Severn Waterway. The Trent Severn is a 240 mile system of lakes, rivers, manmade canals and locks that connects Trenton on Lake Ontario in the east and Port Severn on Georgian Bay in the west. The Trent Severn isn’t as old as the Rideau Canal.  Construction began in 1833, a year after the Rideau was completed, and it wasn’t finished until 1920. It still has a number of manually operated locks as well as three of the most unforgettable locks on the Loop, or anywhere in the world, for that matter.

On July 7 we arrived at the Fraser Park Marina in Trenton, a Looper gathering spot.  We spent two days here with at least ten other looping boats, some we hadn’t seen since Norfolk.  Loopers who took the Erie Canal route and Loopers who took the Chambly and Rideau Canals like we did, all end up in Trenton to begin the trip through the Trent Severn Waterway. In good Looping style, we all gathered for “docktails” each evening at the gazebo in the park next to the marina.

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The Loopers who had come via the Erie Canal had not yet purchased their lock passes or seen how the Canadian locks work.  So one morning we walked up to the first lock with Ross and Laura from The Zone and Darrell and Lisa from Why Knot.  The lock master put Craig and Darrell to work manually opening one of the locks.  Yes, that’s Craig in the crocodile hunter hat.



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The next day was exhausting – 12 locks in 31 miles!  As usual, though, the Parks Canada staff at each lock were friendly and helpful.


One of the lockmasters had a yellow lab named Willie and a big bear of a dog named Rudy.  Willie and Joey were determined to meet and were nose to nose across the gap from boat to lock wall and I was scared to death one of them would be in the drink before it was over.  But Willie is a pro around the lock, and all was well.


We spent the next night at the town dock in Campbellford, along with several of the boats we had been with in Trenton – Why Knot, Mark’s Ark, The Zone, Moon River, Quest, Pegasus and Memory Maker.  It was a nice stop, but most memorable for a wonderful bakery with justifiably renowned cream filled doughnuts and for a 20-foot statue of a giant Toonie, the Canadian $2 coin.  The polar bear image in the center of the coin was designed by a local artist, hence the Big Toonie in the park

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The next day we cruised on to Hastings, stopping along with way at Healey Falls with Dave and Janet from Pegasus.


At Hastings, we docked with Pegasus on the lock wall just below the lock. We found several other Loopers at the wall above the lock.  We joined Pegasus, Memory Maker and Moon River for dinner at a place called Banjo’s, which a couple of lockmasters and our cruising guides told us had terrific pickerel, or walleye, as we know it.  Unfortunately, they only serve it on Fridays so we were out of luck.  Had a good meal anyway.

Hastings was decked out with lots of pretty flower boxes.

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The next day we moved on to Peterborough, a good sized town on a pretty lake with a nice marina. There is a big fountain in the middle of the lake that is illuminated with changing colored lights at night. 

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We walked to a Boater’s World store and I got two new big round fenders for my upcoming birthday present.  I’m the one who always has to haul these cumbersome things from one side of the boat to the other for locks and docking and I wanted two new big ones so we’d have adequate fenders on both sides at all times.  Actually, we probably use more fenders than we need to, but I figure in these locks you just can’t be too careful! So my job is now much easier and I am delighted with my birthday present!


The marina was full of Loopers, all of us having gathered to enjoy the free concert held in the park next to the marina every Wednesday and Saturday in the summer. It was a John Denver tribute, with really good local talent.  There must have been several thousand people there, but the marina staff suggested we take our lawn chairs over in the afternoon to claim our spot, so there was a whole group of Loopers right behind the VIP section.  We had a great evening.IMG_0572 IMG_1811

Most of the group, including us, would head for the big Peterborough lock the next day.

Next: the Peterborough lift lock, the largest in the world!