July 19-20, 2012
Kathy and Craig left early in the morning for the hour-plus drive back to Bobcaygeon to pick up her car. He was back to the boat by 10:30 but by the time we got ourselves organized our departure time was 1:00 p.m.
As we approached the Couchiching Lock, we were delighted to see Marc’s Ark and Quest ahead of us. We hadn’t seen them since we passed them briefly as we were leaving and they were arriving in Peterborough. We went through the lock with them and travelled on to the Swift Rapids Lock where we all tied up for the night, along with Paddy Wagon and Karma.
The Swift Rapids lock wall was one of the loveliest of the trip. It was on a point of land on an open bay. It was a perfect place to stop and catch up with friends.
That evening there was a loon swimming in the bay near our boat. I haven’t made much progress with my plan to learn to play the harmonica, but I did buy myself a two-note loon whistle and I can manage that pretty well! I stood on the back of the boat and called the loon and watched it through my binoculars. It was fun to see him/her tilting its head to listen.
Later, there was a sunset that just lit up the sky. A beautiful way to end a wonderful day.
The next day was one of the most anticipated of the Loop, as we headed for the Big Chute Railway Lock. Craig and I were the first ones out in the morning and after about 8 miles down the Severn River, we got our first view of the Big Chute. As we were the first of our group to arrive, we tied up above the lock to watch and take pictures of the others going through. Later, others in our group would take pictures of us.
The Big Chute is a lock unlike any other, and in fact it seems a misnomer to call it a lock. It is actually a large sling carriage on a railroad track that rolls down into the water on one side, lifts your boat out of the water, carries it on the track across a road and then down a steep hill on the other side, back into the water again. Boats our size go through it one at a time, but several smaller boats can go through together.
The original marine railway on this site was built in 1917, intended as a temporary solution when money for the planned traditional lock was diverted to military purposes in World War I. Over the years, the small railway lift became obsolete as boats got bigger. In the 1960s, the government decided that rather than replacing it with a new conventional lock, they would build a bigger marine railway. One of the reasons for this decision was that retaining the land barrier would keep sea lampreys out of the lakes upstream. The current railway opened in 1978, right next to the original one that is mostly still in place.
First we watched Quest and Marc’s Ark go through. It was a little unnerving to see how far the boats hang off the back of the carriage!
This is a series of pictures that shows Marc’s Ark entering the carriage on the top side, being carried across the road and then making her descent down the long chute and back into the water on the other side.
Then it was our turn. As we approached the partially submerged rail carriage, a team of lock staff riding on the carriage called out instructions. As part of the preparation for the lock, we had marked our boat with the recommended locations for the slings to ensure the boat would be supported in the right places. In actuality, the staff does this so many times every day, they know right where they want to place the slings. Once the boat was in place, we turned off the engines and began our ride.
It was a thrill and went way too quickly. The carriage takes you slowly up out of the water on the railroad tracks, then you cross the road and wave at the waiting cars and the gathered onlookers below.
On the other side of the road the land falls away steeply and you begin the controlled ride downhill, a 57’ drop. As you reach the water on the other side, the carriage lowers you down, the slings are removed and off you go. It’s like an amusement park ride for boats, and so much fun! Something we’ll remember forever.
As we reached the bottom and looked back, this is what we had just come down. This time there were two smaller boats in the carriage together.
The rest of the trip to the end of the waterway at Port Severn was beautiful, passing through a large body of water called Gloucester Pool, with narrow channels winding through many islands and past picturesque cottages.
We arrived at the final lock at Port Severn at noon, and decided to tie up to the lock wall to have lunch, change our charts and plan our entrance to Georgian Bay where we intended to spend the night. But shortly after we arrived, we got a call from Marc on Marc’s Ark. They were staying at Rawley’s Marina right across from us and asked if we wanted to stay and join them for dinner at the very nice restaurant at the marina. We called the marina and learned they had no more available slips, but we were comfortably tied up at the lock wall and decided to stay there. In the evening we walked across the lock and joined Marc’s Ark, Quest and Rickshaw for a great dinner and delightful evening.
This marked the end of our much anticipated cruise through the Trent Severn Waterway. It was beautiful and we had a wonderful time. With its 42 locks, the Rideau Canal’s 44 locks, the Chambly Canal’s 9, the Champlain Canal’s 12 (including the Federal lock at Troy) and a few others on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers, we have gone through 110 locks (unless I’m forgetting one or two) since June 5. No more locks until Chicago!
Next, the gorgeous (but rocky!) Georgian Bay.