July 14-18, 2012
Before leaving Buckhorn, we joined Memory Maker and Paddy Wagon for a too-big breakfast at the Olde Ice House Restaurant across the street from the lock wall. Great homemade jam! I also tried peameal, which we had seen on menus but had never tried. Turns out to be Canadian bacon rolled in corn meal. Nothing to write home about (although I guess I just did!) After breakfast we began the leisurely and relatively short trip through the pretty islands of Buckhorn Lake to Bobcaygeon, where we would spend the next two nights.
Coming into Bobcaygeon, we quickly entered the busy water traffic of this popular spot. The Bobcaygeon lock is the busiest on the waterway, with nearly 8,000 boats passing through last summer, compared with less than 1,000 for most of the locks on the eastern (Trenton) end of the system.
We stayed at Gordon’s Marina, just below and around the bend from the lock. It wasn’t our favorite marina of the trip. Most of the locals who dock there for the season have long since claimed their own spots of turf with picnic tables and grills, and weren’t terribly welcoming. The staff was great, though, and it was a good place for us to meet our friend Kathy Nadherny who was going to drive up from Cincinnati to join us. It also seemed like a safe place for her to leave her car for a few days while she cruised with us.
After lunch we walked around the town and checked out Bigley’s, an incredibly huge and pricey shoe and clothing store for such a small community. Prices were much higher than in the US, so we didn’t buy anything. We made our usual in-town stops – grocery store, drug store and fresh produce stand – and then sat for awhile with Memory Maker and Moon River watching the crazy traffic at the lock on a summer Saturday afternoon. Those lock keepers really work hard, keeping everything running smoothly and without incident. We were there in time to see the Kawartha Voyageur, an excursion boat, go through the lock. She is a big boat, with an interesting fold-up front and collapsible top to allow her to fit into short locks and go under low bridges.
The big hazard in the area is the multitude of rental houseboats. No training is required, and it’s clear many of the people who rent them have never operated a boat in their lives. We escaped any serious encounters but other Loopers shared stories of houseboats stuck sideways in locks, crashing into docks, and generally causing havoc. The lock masters always call them into the locks first and get them settled before having any other boats come into the locks.
All day Sunday we cleaned the boat, did laundry and got ready for Kathy to arrive around dinner time. She got there about 6:30, after an 11 hour drive from Cincinnati. We had a glass of wine on the dock, then walked into town for dinner at an Italian restaurant.
The next morning we were the first ones out and had the busy Bobcaygeon lock all to ourselves.
We had tentatively planned to dock at one of the pretty locks coming up, Fenelon Falls or Rosedale, but getting such an early start, it felt too early to stop at either of those, even though they really were attractive. They even have flower boxes in the lock gates at Rosedale!
We did tie up at Rosedale to have lunch and look at the charts for the next couple of days. At 860’ above sea level, Rosedale is the highest spot on the Trent Severn. In fact, we learned it is the highest place in the world that you can navigate to by boat! Until this point, all the locks have lifted us up, but at the next lock, we would begin going down.
We passed through some pretty narrow places where we were advised to call out on the radio to announce to other boaters that we were coming through, as it would have been impossible in spots to pass a boat coming the other way.
We said hello to some of the locals cooling off in the canal.
The next lock was another special one, Kirkfield Lock, the second highest lift lock in the world (the Peterborough Lock is the highest). Actually, there are only nine lift locks in the world, and two are on the Trent Severn. The others are in Belgium, France and England. At 49’, it is not as high as the 65’ Peterborough lock, but going in our direction it was maybe even more exciting because this time we entered the top pan, not the lower one. As you pull into the chamber, you see the ground fall away in front of you and you hope the boat stops before the end! It was a lot of fun and we were happy Kathy was able to share this experience with us.
After we went through the lock, we tied up at the bottom and walked back to watch other boats go through.
We travelled on for a few more miles, at one point going through an arched bridge aptly called the Hole-in-the-Wall.
We stopped for the night at Sunset Cove Marina in Bolsover, on a pretty bend on the Talbot River. It was a fairly basic marina, but the owners were very accommodating, and extremely dog-friendly. “No need to keep them on a leash here,” he said. “Dogs need to run.” It was my birthday, so Craig and Kathy made dinner and we ate at a picnic table on the dock. And I was once again presented with my birthday fenders! After dinner, Craig went swimming.
The next day we headed down the long, straight Trent Canal, a cut waterway with 5 more locks.
We had planned to go on to Orillia, a good-sized town on the far side of Lake Simcoe where we hoped to figure out how and where to rent a car to get Kathy back to her car in Bobcaygeon later in the week. But we were hearing worrisome wind forecasts for Lake Simcoe. The lake is fairly large and very shallow, so the waves can build up suddenly and it is capable of creating a dangerous crossing. By the time we got to Lock 40, just a couple of miles before the entrance to the lake, we were getting reports of 5-6’ waves, even though it was a warm and sunny day.
So we decided not to go on and stayed at the top of the lock in its beautiful park-like setting, with one other Looper boat, Gary and Deb on Foray. We all enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. Kathy found a bench overlooking the valley below and read her book. Craig took Joey for a swim, and Bailey and I explored a path along the shore. There is no public road access to this lock, so it was very peaceful and quiet.
The next day the weather was perfect for cruising and we had a calm trip across Lake Simcoe. It is a surprisingly big lake and at times you can’t see across to the opposite shore.
We docked at the Port of Orillia municipal docks, which had all been replaced last year and were very nice. After we got tied up, Craig made some phone calls to car rental agencies and taxi services and sadly concluded that the only way to get Kathy back to Bobcaygeon in time for her to drive back to Cincinnati by Saturday was to rent a car in Orillia, which meant she had to leave a day early.
That decision made, we walked into town to enjoy the sights. Like so many towns, Orillia has a public art project. In their case, it is large painted chairs fashioned after a chair in the study of their local hero, Stephen Leacock, an early 20th century author and humorist.
Orillia is an attractive town, with lots of restaurants and small shops. Our favorite was the Mariposa Market, a pretty store right out of a movie set, with bakery goods, candy, fudge and all kinds of goodies.
It was in Orillia that I finally tried a butter tart, a beloved Canadian pastry. Good thing I didn’t try them sooner, because they are too delicious! And about 700 calories a piece. They are small flaky pastry tarts filled with a mixture of sugar, butter, syrup, eggs and probably some other yummy things. When baked, the filling settles into a thin crust on top, but when you bite into it, the syrupy filling runs out. They are messy, but so good!
That night Kathy treated us to dinner, along with David from Memory Maker, whose wife Barbara had flown to Washington D.C. for a short business trip. It was Kathy’s last night with us. Her short visit went too quickly, but it was wonderful to have her join us.
Next, the final part of the Trent Severn, including the Big Chute Railway Lock.