6/14 – 24/2016 Summary: After waiting for 3 days on a weather window to cross Lake Ontario, it finally came on June 14th and we left the harbor past the Oswego lighthouse and onto Lake Ontario. It was still a bit rough, but nothing like we had seen the previous few days. About half of the 6-hour crossing was uncomfortable, but not too bad.
Once arriving in Canada, we checked in with Canadian customs by phone. After answering a few questions and supplying our identification information, we were good to go and found a nice anchorage in Picton Bay to complete a 58-mile day.
The following day we moved up the Bay of Quinte to Trenton, the beginning of the Trent-Severn Waterway. We stopped at the newly completed Port Trent Marina, our home for a couple of days while we explored the area. We got the scooter down, checked out the first lock and bought our Trent-Severn one-way pass through the 44 locks over the next 240 miles.
We really enjoyed Trenton and the marina. The marina folks were some of the friendliest and most helpful we had found in our travels, and the facilities are top-notch! (For you boaters, check out the details below.)
On June 17th, after a false start due to problems with the water level at the first lock, we entered the Trent-Severn Waterway and made it through the first 6 locks before tying up just above the lock where we met Randy and Audrey Guzar, a couple who have been cruising the local area for years. Randy spent some time giving us some hints on places to stay and things to see both in the Trent-Severn and Georgian Bay. Thanks Randy!
The following night we stayed at the Campbellford city wall for the night. Campbellford had 2 claims to fame – the World’s Finest Chocolate Outlet and the Empire Cheese Co-op. We visited both and also took a beautiful walk through Ferris Provincial Park.
Over the next week, we progressed through about 25 more locks and generally tied up overnight to the lock wall, the concrete structure located above and/or below each lock and securely extending out from them, based on Randy’s favorites.
We found the Trent-Severn to be beautiful! There were tree-lined canals feeding into lakes and rivers, some with pristine woodlands, others spotted with Canadian “cottages” (which Americans would call summer homes). Many had boat docks with anything from canoes to luxury powerboats and even an occasional seaplane. We stopped and toured some of the locks; our favorite was the lift lock in Peterborough where we had dinner with fellow DeFever owners Gordon and Judith.
We are now about halfway through the Trent-Severn and about halfway through the Great Loop, totally enjoying Canada and the Trent-Severn Waterway. The locks are easier to negotiate, and the lock staff generally friendlier than those on the Erie Canal. We have been able to slow down a bit, on target to complete the Trent-Severn by the end of the month. Our only disappointment is that we must be off the boat all of July for other obligations, losing time during which we could have savored the trip at a slower pace.
Okay, this is the spot where you stop unless you want the blow-by-blow details we are recording for our old age.
Details – Tuesday, June 14 finally gave way to clear skies, though there was still a bit of wind and we were still in 4 layers of clothes. We were ready to leave Oswego at 7:15, but just as Tom was about to start warming up the engines, a boat that had pulled out earlier returned. “Too rough. I have stuff crashing and falling in the cabin.” So…Tom replaced a water hose on the aft deck and we waited. Another 2 boats left after about an hour and did not return. Our turn; at 8:45, we slipped by the Oswego lighthouse and onto Lake Ontario. For about 3 hours, it was an uncomfortable ride, mainly due to the short frequency of waves – about 2-3 seconds, which meant the bow rose and fell that fast. It was definitely a “3-point day” (for example, when walking, have 2 hand-holds before raising a foot or 2 feet on the boat and 1 hand-hold). Tom drove and ate crackers (that’s code for “protected his stomach from motion sickness”). Finally after about 3 hours, the chop subsided. We had more than 30 miles visibility, seeing 2 smokestacks on the north of the lake before losing the south shore (the east shore always faintly in sight). We only saw about 5 boats all day long. Paula peeled, sectioned, and froze all of our grapefruit and oranges, not sure if fresh fruit was allowed through customs.
At 3:20, we cleared customs via phone at Prinyers Cove Marina (a very small marina that only accommodated about half our boat length on their dock) as that method had been recommended as a quicker way than stopping at a larger town where officials were more likely to board. Having forgotten earlier, we got additional Canadian coverage for our cell phones for $2/day/phone. We decided to motor about 2 more hours and found the calm, quiet, secluded cove (a 58-mile day), anchored, and enjoyed shrimp on the aft deck for supper.
We awoke to “waterski smooth” waters and headed out with Trenton, the beginning of the Trent-Severn Waterway (33 miles), our destination for the day. We were extremely glad the waters were calm; Canada’s navigation buoys are about a quarter the size of the ones the US uses, and any bit of waves on the water would make buoys very difficult to see. There were nice houses along the bay and we saw several turtles and our first swans.
Unfortunately, the electronic mapping on our Northstar was beyond any charts we had and we had to back up our laptop computer mapping with plot lines on paper charts. (Though we always had paper charts handy, they had been the #3 backup.) It was only by correlating on paper we could see charted depths.
We arrived at Port Trent Marina and quickly figured out this would be a 2-night stop. First, it was a brand new marina, the staff was super-helpful, we got a goodie bag with coupons for stuff in town, a free hot dog, drink and ice cream at their little snack shop, a TV lounge room, and they proudly showed us the 10 toilet/shower rooms. There were 3 grocery stores within walking distance, banks, numerous restaurants only 2 blocks away, and a strong Wifi signal that reached the outermost dock.
The exchange rate was very much in our favor with 78 cents US getting us $1 Canadian. We quickly got LC (the scooter) off the boat and were off to Lock 1 to buy our Trent-Severn one-way pass ($204 CA, $160 US). An additional fee would be required to tie up to the lock walls at night (unlike the Erie Canal pass, which allowed free dock wall tie-ups) but after 10 nights, it could be converted to a season pass and the rest of the nights would be free (which we later learned included the Georgian Bay as well).
The lockmasters had found abandoned baby raccoons, probably already 3 days without nutrition and were medicine-dropper feeding them. We walked around downtown, gathered info at the visitor’s center and dined at the Thai sushi restaurant (very good). Another turn on LC took us past the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial and the National Air Force Museum of Canada with about 10 aircraft on display outside.
Paula started the next day off with a run around Centennial Park along the Bay of Quinte (pronounced “Quint – ē”). Quinte West, a municipality of Trenton, had many lovely grassy parks, memorials, and big trees – a beautiful town. Meanwhile, Tom affixed our Canadian flag. We then hiked to Mt. Pelion, a very short but steep climb to a drumlin (small hill) 191’ above the Bay of Quinte with impressive views. Lunch at Tomasso’s (our table umbrella blew over, conked Tom on the shin, and netted him an ice pack and free dessert) followed by a walk around town into second-hand stores, a sock store (coupons), and grocery shopping at FreshCo (discount grocer).
While downtown, we noticed a flyer for a dinner theater fundraiser at the Trenton Christian School for “The Butler Did It.” We were able to get tickets for the next evening, our first theater of the trip. Though well done, we have found who-done-its to be so far-fetched we have decided we’re done with them. Upon arriving back at the marina, we smelled a strong gas odor near a boat on our dock. Tom ended up calling the fire department when he could not raise anyone from the marina. They determined it was an expansion overflow due to the first warm day.
The Trent-Severn Waterway is a 240-mile system of lakes, rivers, and man-made canals managed by Parks Canada that cuts across Central Ontario, creating one of the world’s most outstanding fresh-water cruising regions. The multipurpose waterway provides recreation, drinking water, hydro-electric power, habitats for plants and animals, and water level control, as well as contributing to the economy in many of the towns and cities along its route. It has 44 locks making the route navigable from the Bay of Quinte on Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. Unlike the Erie Canal completed in just 7 years, it was completed in piecemeal fashion over an 87-year period beginning in 1833. It was designated a national historic site in 1929. Stunning scenery, historic and friendly ports of call, many waterside special events, cultural attractions, First Nations communities, and great fishing lure thousands of boaters each summer.
Every lock had a park with picnic tables, washrooms (some with showers) and a lock wall (sometimes both above and below the lock) where boaters could tie up for the night. A few had power. The lockmasters took great pride in their locks, and sometimes it seemed they competed for “most attractive lock” – with flowers, hanging baskets, or even a vegetable garden. Because most of the locks were manual (the doors were opened by walking a merry-go-round-like bar in a circle to push the doors open), lockmasters also seemed friendlier than on the Erie Canal where the lockmasters only had to push a button and not even have to say “hello” to boaters locking through. Many lockworkers were students on summer vacation.
It seemed lock transit watching was a national pastime. Though there was 1 lock without road access, others might have visitors lined on the lock walls to watch the show. And we heard it could be entertaining. Several houseboat rental companies existed near the “cottage” section and by watching a 30-minute video, renters became houseboat captains. We heard about houseboats being sideways in locks and playing bumper boats. During the first 2 weeks of July, all the “trade” workers have their annual vacation and many of them end up on a houseboat. It was suggested we never be parked the end boat of the line as the first target.
Because the Trent-Severn was still on winter locking hours (10-4), we couldn’t get an early start in the morning. We took advantage of the free laundry facilities at the marina and pulled out only to get close to the lock and find out the water level was too low for transit. A quick 360 returned us to the marina. One hour passed, two hours passed, we went to lunch, another 2 hours passed. This was not the way we wanted to spend our day! But we have learned…while boating, flexibility is required.
At 2:40, the lock was finally open for business. We shoved out of the slip again and were finally on our way. At Lock 1, we got to see the raccoon crawling around on the student lockkeeper’s shoulder; he had grown! Lockmasters 1-6 had all been working on the water level problem at Lock 1 to varying degrees and knew about the delays so were very accommodating. We finished Lock 6 a little late (generally a boat must arrive 30 minutes before closing) but they waited for us because of the water delay and we finished at 6:35 on the upper wall after the lock.
We walked across the canal and met our “neighbors” Randy and Audrey Guzar on Heart Tug, a really cute bright red 34’ American Tug. They were regular Trent-Severn and Georgian Bay boaters, spending every summer from May through Sept cruising the area. After finding out we were first-timers to the Trent-Severn, Randy graciously offered to talk about the area with us – caution areas, his favorite restaurants, railroad bridge, church steeples, who owned what cottages along the way, etc. Never ones to turn down an offer like that, 15 minutes later we were sitting at the park picnic table, Paula with note-taking paper in hand. We had found the Lorenzo of Canada (see Stuart to St. Augustine, FL – Part 2)!
Mile by mile, we went over charts, anchorages and his favorite lock walls for overnights. Two hours later (9:30 at night, having not even had supper), Paula had 3 pages of notes on the Trent-Severn. He even gave us his Ports navigation books (excellent detailed books) on the Trent-Severn and Georgian Bay and told us just to leave them with the lockmaster at the last lock on the Trent-Severn. Seems he knew all the lockmasters by name and they knew him! (We later discovered we had them onboard and were able to give his back before leaving.)
Randy and Audrey are slow-pacers, thoroughly enjoying all the Trent-Severn has to offer. A big day for them sometimes was moving from the lower lock wall to the upper lock wall! Wish we had time to do that (and relax)! Randy said it only got better, with the Georgian Bay one of his favorite areas. In August, we are really hoping we can cross paths again with them in the Georgian Bay or Northern Channel. We enjoyed Randy’s company.
On Saturday, we motored 25 miles and transitioned thorough Locks 7-12 to an overnight on the Campbellford city wall. We had to wait at every lock, as some lockmasters were traveling from lock to lock. Paula started getting a fever blister. Tom called it “lockitis” as for her, they are usually associated with stress. Locks 11 and 12 were our first experience with a flight lock (double-lock). It consisted of 3 lock doors, the middle door being both the top door of the lower lock and the lower door of the upper lock. There was total rise of 45’ in the 2 stages.
During the day, we saw beautiful “cottages” (summer abodes), turtles, swans with babies, and beautiful bays at the ends of well-marked channels. The Campbellford Chamber of Commerce was right at the wall (along with restrooms, showers, and power) and had all the tourist information we needed for our overnight stay. In the adjacent park was a large “Toonie” monument, a tribute to the efforts of the local artist who created the polar bear used on the coin.
We had a nice walk about 1 mile back to Locks 11 and 12 along Rotary Trail (part of the Trans-Canada Trail between Hastings and Campbellford) that meandered just beside the Trent Canal and watched a couple of boats lock through. Then we continued to the Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge at Ranney Falls. The bridge spanned 300’ across and 30’ above the gorge with a magnificent view. We had a lovely 4-mile hike through beautiful woods in Ferris Provincial Park, a park with 163 camping sites and miles of trails. After supper at Family Restaurant, we visited with other boaters along the wall while they ate their supper on the picnic table, including George and Sharon on a Thundercraft Tempest 26.5 named “Lady George” and their friends Paul and Barb and 2 beautiful dogs. They were super-friendly people and we had a fun visit.
Sunday dawned bright and clear. We hopped on LC and scootered to the Empire Cheese Co-op where we bought our favorite cheese delight, “squeaky cheese” (actually cheese curds), as well as some other Empire specialties. Unfortunately, Doohers Bakery, which we heard sold out quickly each day, was closed on Sunday. We enjoyed a service at the friendly Campbellford Baptist Church just down the road from our boat. We scootered around town, got some chocolates at the World’s Finest Chocolate Outlet and visited Lock 13 before getting fuel and finally starting on our way. We passed all forms of cottages along the waterway. All the locks were pretty easy that day, including Healey Falls, another double flight lock.
We decided to anchor behind Huycke Island but after 3 attempts without getting the anchor to hold and only about 90 minutes of sunlight left, we pressed on to Hastings and Lock 18. Of course the lock was closed but we were able to dock on the lower wall and walk up to Banjo’s, an oft-recommended restaurant, for a quick supper on their patio.
Monday morning, being back on the last week of “short hours,” we had to wait until the Lock 18 lockmasters arrived to open at 10:00. We were ready to get going, as it would be a 38-mile day and we hoped to get to Lock 19 by 3:30 to lock through and make it to the Peterborough Marina. We pulled into the bottom at 10:10 as soon as they had the doors open. Then we motored through a narrow canal until it opened up onto Rice Lake, 20 miles long and 3 miles wide, the second largest body of water on the Trent-Severn. There were small whitecaps and we were bucking headwinds of 15-25 knots, but it was smooth-going. After about 12 miles, we made a sharp turn into the very narrow Otonabee River. We barely made it to Lock 10 at 3:30, just in time.
Just before getting to the lock, we were passed by a 30’ boat with 3 300 hp engines (not obeying the 10 km speed limit). He went into the short lock in front of us and stopped mid-wall and grabbed his lines, not leaving us room to get into the lock. As Paula pulled into the lock (with a strong tailwind), we motioned for him to move forward, but he just stared at us. Paula did not hit him, but at one point our anchor was hanging over the stern of his boat. Only when the lockmaster told him he had to move up did he. We decided perhaps IQ is inversely proportional to the amount of horsepower hanging on the back of one’s boat.
One reason we had wanted to get to Peterborough Marina was to get together with Gordon Tannock and Judith Montgomery. We had met Judith in Ft. Pierce, FL and she had told us we must call when we got close to their home on the Trent-Severn. We looked up after we got into Lock 19 and there they stood, welcoming us to the town where they were reared.
After exiting the lock, we motored the mile across Little Lake to the Peterborough Marina. Unfortunately, the 250’ Centennial Fountain geyser had broken and the city had not repaired it yet. Still battling gusty winds, we got easy face dock parking and deckhands Kate and Patrick did an excellent job of cleating us quickly in the strong wind.
Soon Gordon and Judith pulled up, drove us through downtown Peterborough (population over 100,000), took us on a few errands, and then to supper at lovely Chemong Lodge overlooking Chemong Lake. This lake was off the canal and very serene, even during the rainstorm while we were eating. We had a wonderful time with them and Paula got to partake of the area’s specialty – pickerel (known as walleye to Americans). It was a delicious, moist, flaky, white fish. What a treat. Afterward, we drove the short distance to their house, built in 1870, for tea. There were many 100-acre farms in the area which could only be subdivided into 95 and 5-acre sections. Theirs was a beautiful house on the 5 acres, graced by Gordon’s stained glass craftsmanship and their green-thumb landscaping. We so enjoyed spending time with them and learning more about Canada. Thank you, Gordon and Judith!
We couldn’t wait to get started exploring the next morning in Peterborough. The storm had cleared the air, dropped the temperature a little, and it was a great day for biking. We left the scooter behind and got some exercise. Canada loves their parks, and we loved seeing all the greenery and flowers in Millennium Park and many other parks. The park right at the marina hosted free concerts during the summer with as many as 15,000 people in attendance!
Our first stop was the Peterborough Museum & Archives, with history of the region (watch the cute Logdriver’s Waltz). It also included information on the shipwrecks of Lake Superior, the most famous of which was the Edmond Fitzgerald, sung about in the Gordon Lightfoot song.
Close by was the famous Peterborough Lift Lock. There are only 8 lift locks in the world with Peterborough the highest and first of 2 built in North America, both on the Tent-Severn Waterway. This lift lock, the lockmaster told us, was built here because it would have otherwise required 4 conventional locks in only 1.5 miles to lift the 65’ required.
The first concrete locks built in North America were the 5 locks between Peterborough and Lakefield (Locks 22-26). The 65’ Peterborough Lift Lock, built between 1896 and 1904 of unreinforced concrete, was one of the largest concrete structures at the time and considered an engineering wonder. The lift lock raises and lowers boats in 2 water-filled steel chambers. Each chamber is 140’ long and holds about 1700 tons of water. Two 7.5’ diameter chamber rams are connected in a closed water hydraulic system. Any movement of 1 chamber forces an equal and opposite movement of the other chamber. To transfer boats, the upper chamber is overbalanced by taking on an extra foot of water. When the valve connecting the hydraulic rams is opened, the heavier upper chamber travels downward, forcing the opposite chamber an equal distance upward. The water displaced by the boats is equal to the weight of the boat, so it can carry as many boats as will fit. We found it very interesting and after watching 4 other boats lock through, were looking forward to experience the 65’ rise ourselves.
From there, we biked to lunch and then to the Canoe Museum. Canada once had 3 canoe manufacturers, one right in Peterborough, and the variety of over 100 canoes and kayaks was interesting but we didn’t feel it was worth the $12 (CA) admission price. The Art Gallery of Peterborough, free and adjacent to the park next to the marina, was very small but had a few interesting pieces in it.
The next morning, it was time to move on. The wind was still up a bit (though less than the pull-in) and we moved to the fuel dock for a holding tank pumpout. As we sterned out, we hit something underneath, even though the dockmasters said the depth was 7’. Paula stopped and bowed out instead, but we hit it again as we pulled away from the dock. The dockmasters said to monitor our boat and let them know if we felt anything amiss. We did have vibration, but before getting to the next lock, determined it was grass/weeds, very hard to avoid in the shallow waters of the Trent-Severn. We were able to shed them by driving the prop into reverse, and after that, it seemed we had no problem. The dockmaster called us back and said it looked like perhaps a trashcan had fallen in by the dock.
It was a very “lock-heavy” day, with 7 locks in 10 miles after pulling out of Peterborough Marina. Because they came with such short intervals, it was easy to get into a rhythm: lock, drive 1/2 mile and set up for the next one, another 1/2 mile and into the following. Most of them were very smooth. After noticing the lockmasters weren’t fussing at boaters who were cleating their lines (though we had read we weren’t allowed), we began doing that and just watched them carefully to slide the lines up as needed. It was so much easier than trying to just hold them.
Lock 21 was the Peterborough Lift Lock we had seen the day before. The ride was incredible, almost like riding up in a slow glass elevator. In 2 minutes, we had risen 65’. After Locks 20-26, it opened up for about 6 miles to the bottom of our last lock, for the day, Young’s Point Lock 27.
We almost stopped at Young’s Point with its cute Lockside Trading Company, biggest country store in the Kawarthas right at the lock, but decided to cross Clear Lake with the good weather since there was a 50% chance of rain forecast for the next day and stopped instead at the bottom of Burleigh Falls Lock 28 instead. Our overnight neighbors were 9 nurses partying for a week on a rented houseboat and Ken and Chris Davies on Summer Dream, Canadians from Lindsay, Ontario. Finding out we were first-timers, Ken and Chris let us pick their brains about Georgian Bay, helping us with anchorages and other favorites of theirs. We continue to be so appreciative to locals for sharing their knowledge of the area. It is obvious they are proud of their beautiful country and also extremely grateful that Americans visit. We relaxed for the evening.
The transit through Hell’s Gate, so named because of the very narrow (but well-marked) channel, had gorgeous multi-million dollar houses tucked in small bays or on islands. We had been told many hockey players and famous rich musicians lived or cottaged there. There was a beautiful white church on an island, complete with dinghy dock. Also a glass house!
The next morning we awoke early enough to take a walk back by road to Burleigh Falls. But we were parked on the blue line so had to be ready to go through the lock first at 10:00. There was no Lock 29, as it was combined with the new Lock 28. Lovesick Lake Lock 30 was on an island with no road access so there were no spectators, as had become common. The lockmasters got there via a boat locked in Lock 28 at night (pun intended).
We locked through Locks 28 and 31 with the cutest newlyweds, Ori and Bailey Yuval who were renting a houseboat for the week. Ori had grown up with boats, but it was a first lovely experience for Bailey. We tried to get them to stop with us at Buckhorn Lock 31 for a Chinese lunch at recommended Cody Inn just across from the lock but they decided they needed to move on to get set up for their return on the houseboat rental the next day. We saw them again that night and gave them a tour of our boat.
Burleigh Falls was a nice noonday stop, with antique stores and a wonderful bakery where Tom indulged in a gooey cinnamon bun while the clerk allowed Paula to scoop the sugar topping from the pan (feeling sorry for her after hearing her food allergies).
We motored across Buckhorn Lake, very narrow Gannon Narrows and into Pigeon Lake. Tom had to dive under the boat and clear weeds from the props with a knife several times during the day, even though we stayed directly in the channel. Fortunately, we got wall space on the blue line at the bottom wall of Bobcaygeon Lock 32.
Bobcaygeon Lock is the busiest lock on the Trent-Severn (houseboat rental company prime cruising area and often their first lock to experience) and that night, there were 14 boats below the lock and another 12 above! It was the most we had seen anywhere; most lock walls anywhere else have only room for 5-6 boats max. During the height of summer, we heard boats begin parking on the wall for the night as early as 8:00 AM.
The Bobcaygeon Lock is the oldest lock, the first one built on the Trent-Severn in 1833, but the first vessel did not travel through until 1838. The original design and location didn’t allow sufficient water to be retained in the lock and a second more function lock had to be built. It also has the oldest accompanying swing bridge.
Bigley Shoes, which we had heard about from several women, was immediately across the street from the lock. Inside were more than 40,000 pairs of shoes and just down the street at the Bigley Beachhouse, 30,000 bathing suits. In lieu of buying the $120 shoe Paula liked, she just had Tom take a picture instead (even though she had a $20 off coupon). Basically the town of Bobcaygeon was all about Bigley shopping and little else. We walked town and window-shopped and ended up splitting a dinner at Just for the Halibut. (Cute name, huh?) Though we got LC down and scootered the other direction from the shopping district, there really wasn’t much more to Bobcaygeon. We topped off the evening with Kawartha ice cream.
Kawartha Lakes is a region that includes the Trent-Severn river corridors of Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls. Kawartha ice cream is a 75-year tradition in Canada, offering over 40 flavors of premium ice cream. Tom loved it and Paula certainly enjoyed more than her fair share, though she found the less-creamy Stewart’s ice cream in northern NY more to her liking.
For some reason, the water pump decided to quit that night but Tom was able to repair it by replacing an electrical connector. Praise God while he was down in the engine room and sat down to talk with someone on the telephone, he noticed a fraying fan belt on the port engine which would have caused problems the next day and quickly replaced it.
We were now about halfway through the Trent-Severn, and about halfway through our Great Loop adventure. We were enjoying the Trent-Severn as much, if not more, than any part of the Loop we had done so far, and people kept telling us Georgian Bay and the North Channel were even better. And we talked with one couple who said their favorite section was the rivers in Kentucky. So obviously we had a lot of adventure left and a lot of beautiful country to explore.