Sunday, July 8, 2012

Rideau Canal: Merrickville, Smiths Falls and Col. By Island

June 25-27, 2012

Our next stop after Long Island was Merrickville, one of the notable charming small towns on the Rideau. At Merrickville, we passed through locks 21, 22 and 23 of the 44 locks to be traversed in the Rideau. In terms of mileage, though, Merrickville isn’t close to halfway, and the really beautiful sections are yet to come.  It’s a good stop, though, for stretching your legs in a quaint town with plenty of shops and restaurants to explore.

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There is also a well-preserved example of a “blockhouse” style lockmaster’s station, built with fortifications in the event of an attack by the Americans (which of course never came).


The lock walls at Merrickville are at the top of the series of locks and tucked around the corner in an area they call “the Pond,” where we had another quiet evening with a beautiful sunset.


Our next stop was Smiths Falls, where we had arranged to meet Craig’s Hyco colleague Doug Overbury and his wife, Tina. Doug and Tina live not far away and joined us for dinner.  Tina also brought us home-made brownies, a real treat for us boat people! This was only the beginning of the many unbelievable kindnesses Doug and Tina extended during our time in their “neighborhood.” In the days to come, Doug brought and helped Craig install two new starter batteries for the boat, took our starboard alternator back to his shop for inspection and adjustments, joined us for Canada Day fireworks, and most generously, picked up Karen at the train station in Kingston and brought her to Westport where we were docked, which allowed her to enjoy cruising the Rideau with us.  More about all of that later, but we can’t ever thank him enough for his wonderful help and hospitality.

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The next day, as we took a break at the Poonamalie lock, the lockmaster encouraged and helped us chart a course to Colonel By Island, named for the Englishman who designed and oversaw the construction of the Rideau Canal.  The island is in Big Rideau lake, one of the many lakes connected by the canal, and an amazingly beautiful spot. It is one of dozens of islands that dot the lake, many very small with just one cottage.  Col. By has docking space for only 8 boats, first come, first served, and we were lucky to get one of the spots.

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What a fantastic place!  Blue, blue water, pine and birch trees, views of the many nearby islands, and total peace and quiet.  We took a walk with the dogs and they quickly found a small sand beach where they took a swim and fetched sticks.

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Craig and I took a dinghy ride into a secluded bay accessible only by dinghy-sized boats, where we saw loons with their babies, herons, ducks and other water birds, and no one else.


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Craig also decided that the Canadian flag needed some fixing so when we got back from our ride he took on that project.

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That evening Craig discovered an electrical problem with the boat, and as luck would have it, of the very few people there, one was an electrical engineer (whose current career is high fashion photographer, but that’s another story) who came aboard with his professional electrician’s tool box and quickly diagnosed our problem as a bad starter battery, with the second on the way out.  Paul showed Craig how to circumvent the problem for purposes of starting the engines the next morning, and Craig called Doug who has an alternator business in Kingston and arranged to meet us in our next port with two new batteries.  Talk about having the stars aligned – just the right people to help us, both in the right place at the right time.

Anyway, problem solved, we enjoyed a bottle of wine with new friends Paul and Janet and watched yet another beautiful sunset.



The next morning, Craig and I took another dinghy ride and at 9:30, followed Paul and Janet to Westport, our next stop and theirs, too. They live outside Ottawa and were spending the long Canada Day weekend on the Rideau.  They are friends of the man who owns the only hotel/restaurant of note in Westport, where there is always live jazz on Thursday nights, and they invited us to join them for dinner and music afterwards.  Sounded like a plan!


Next, Westport with Karen!  Canada Day with all the trimmings!

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