Trent-Severn Waterway and Peterborough Lift Lock
133 Days Looping
1,984.1 Nautical Miles Total (2,283.3 Statute Miles)
131.0 Nautical Miles This Week
23.6 Hours Underway This Week
7.2 NMph Average Speed
21 Locks This Week, 125 Total Locks
Monday – Aug 19th – 33.7 NM – 1 Lock – To: Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Monday we had a nice long lake run on Rice Lake to Peterborough. We only had one lock to do, and it was just before we reached Peterborough. We cast off at 9:00 and headed into Rice Lake. Rice lake is 20 miles long with relatively deep water (20 ft or so). The path through the lake is well marked, and aside from a few channels between islands where there is a 5.5-knot speed limit, we were able to open up the engines and blow out some carbon (Hope that makes you happy Michael!) We ran at about 20 KMph for most of the crossing, slowing down for the speed zones and when crossing a “submerged railway”. There used to be a 2.5-mile long railroad trestle that crossed the middle of the lake. It’s been torn down, but the piers are still there just below the surface. There is about a 150 ft clear area that you have to pass through, it’s marked with two small buoys but you don’t want to miss it.
After leaving Rice Lake, we followed the Otonabee River for the rest of the trip into Peterborough. The first part was lined with dead trees on the banks (which means they could also be floating just under the surface) so we took it slow. Once we got a bit farther along, it became fairly built up with lots of homes and camps so we had to run at 6 KMph again for much of it.
We reached the first lock in Peterborough, Scotts Mills (Lock #19) just after 1:00. We had a short wait for a boat heading downstream to lock through, and being one of the oldest locks on the system, the hand cranks and sluices that fill and drain the lock are very slow. Like many of the Locks on the Trent-Severn, the dam next to the lock was under construction. While we were waiting, we watched several workers in a boat working downstream of the dam, and another worker on the edge taking concrete blocks and placing them carefully in the water. We were wondering what he was doing when a diver suddenly popped up and climbed out of the water.
After looking through, we headed into Peterborough, past Lock #20, which we would be going through when we continue on Wednesday, and into Little Lake where our marina was located. In Little Lake they have a fountain in the middle of the lake that shoots a 15″ stream of water 250 ft into the air, we passed the fountain (the wind was blowing away from us so we didn’t get wet), and pulled into the marina at 1:30.
After tying up and checking in, we walked into downtown Peterborough to check it out. Peterborough has a 1960’s feel to the downtown. There are not a lot of old historic structures. The largest building in town is a factory along the river run by Quaker Oats where they make packaged oatmeal and energy bars.
After walking around for a while, after a 65-degree start, it was in the mid-’80s by afternoon so we went back to the boat and cooled down. In the evening we went to a local restaurant for dinner and then walked through Millenium park that runs along the waterfront on the way back. When we got back to the boat, our neighbor on the next dock the Island Princess III that does cruise tours of the lift locks was just pulling in. As the sun started to set, the mist from the fountain turned into rainbows. It was very impressive!
Tuesday – Aug 20th – 0 NM – In: Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday we had an in port day. We wanted to go to the Lift Lock and watch it in operation before we went through it ourselves, and also visit the Museum and visitor center. Parks Canada who runs the locks and the canal has a series of Geocaches that if you complete 4 of them, they give you a special Trent-Severn Waterway Geocoin. Peterborough has a couple of universities and the whole city is crisscrossed with bike paths, one of which follows the canal to the locks. We broke out the bikes and took off down the path, across a converted railway bridge, and down to Lock 20 which we passed on the way to the marina. We stopped and watched some boats lock through, it’s pretty much a standard lock. We then went to the swing bridge just after the lock and found our first Geocache. We then rode up the canal and got our first sight of Lock 21, the Peterborough Lift Lock.
Picture two Olympic swimming pools, side by side, with large boats floating in them, attached to elevators 6 and a half stories tall. When one goes up, the other comes down. The lock was built from 1898 to 1904 and given the age in which it was built it is an engineering marvel. It is still the tallest lock of its kind in the world. Still operational 115 years later with only minor updates for safety and automation.
We arrived on the downstream side, took a bunch of photos, then climbed up to the top of the lock to the upstream side to do our second Geocache and watch some boats lock up and down. On the downside, was a 40 ft cruiser and a small C-Dory boat. On the upside was a pontoon boat, and a canoe with 20 grade school kids who had paddled up to the lock from Peterborough, and were taking a ride up, then back down.
The lock operators loaded the downside, it was neat to watch a boat pull into what is basically an infinity pool, with the exposed edge 65 ft up! The two down boats got settled, and they closed the door. Then they had to wait 15 minutes for the kids to paddle up the waterway into the lock. Finally, they closed the lower lock door and the lockmaster came on the intercom and announced they would begin “The Transfer” Oooooooo!
We watched as he threw some switches and punched some buttons… Nothing. He did a reboot of the panel, and again nothing. After playing with buttons and chatting on his radio for about 10 minutes, he jumped in his truck and drove to the bottom. A few minutes later, the locks started to move, we could hear them on the radio and they had to take it up “inches” at a time. The transfer was completed and the boats exited the lock. Phew! Glad that wasn’t us!
We rode the bikes under the lock, yes, UNDER, there is a roadway that passes directly under the main lock chambers, and to the visitor center. In the visitor center, we walked around and viewed the displays on the construction of the lock. At the time, it was the largest concrete structure built, it has no rebar it’s a solid pour. All of the construction was done with hand and some steam power. Quite amazing! We left the visitor center and rode the bikes up to the other side of the lock where there was another Geocache in our series. While we were there, we saw them successfully transfer a couple of boats.
From the lift lock, we rode back down along the canal to the Parks Canada administration center next to lock 20, and got the last Geocache in the series, then rode back to the boat. When we returned it was almost 4:00, we put away the bikes, and I took a walk to the local marine supply and a sporting goods store looking for some propane tanks without any luck. When I got back, we walked to the snack bar at the marina and had something cold to drink before dinner. I checked in with the marina staff and found that they sell propane tanks there at the marina! What luck! We also got word that they had closed the Lift Lock due to a “maintenance issue”, so we were not sure if our plans to transit tomorrow would work out.
For dinner, we walked back through the Millenium park to the Brick House, a micro-brewery burger joint for dinner.
Wednesday – Aug 21st – 29.2 NM -11 Locks – To: Buckhorn, Ontario, Canada
I woke up early at 5:30 and checked on Twitter to see if there were any updates on the Lift Lock. Overnight they had tweeted that they expected the lock to be open for normal operations. Super! We got the boat ready and pulled away from our slip at 8:00 and went to the fuel dock to top off with diesel and pump-out. While we were taking on 200 gallons (which takes about 30 minutes) we chatted with the dockhand and mentioned that we were Geocachers. She had seen references to it but did not know what Geocaching was. We explained it and she got really excited! We gave her the sign-up info and Brenda showed her the Geocaching App. When the tanks were finally topped off, we pulled away from Peterborough and approached Lock #20 Ashburnham. We had visited this lock the day before on the bikes and, aside from being old, it was a pretty standard lock. We arrived at about 9:10 and called the lock. They told us there was a down-bound boat and that we would have to wait. It took about 30 minutes for them to get the boat through, mostly because the lock (and the staff) was slow.
We got into the lock at around 10:00, and it was 10:15 by the time we cleared the swing bridge that is just after the lock. About 500 ft after the swing bridge is a swinging railroad bridge that is normally in the open position. We’d passed it yesterday on the bikes, and it looked operational, but not often used. As we approached, I heard ringing bells and saw that the crossing lights on the road next to the bridge were flashing. The bridge hadn’t started to move yet, and there was no evidence of a train waiting, so I put on a bit of speed, and we zipped past the bridge. We then rounded the corner and got our second view of the Peterborough Lift Lock (Lock #21). We wanted to claim our Geocaching prize for doing the 4 lock-related caches so we pulled over to the dock at the visitor center and tied up the boat. The Lock attendant came over and said that it would be 15 minutes before we could load, which worked out perfectly for us. We walked up the hill to the visitor center turned in our punch-card and were rewarded with a beautiful Geocoin!
The guide at the visitor center called up to the lock to let them know we were ready, and they said that they were ready for us to load into the chamber. We untied the boat, and pulled up into the giant bathtub at 10:30! We were the only boat going up, but we had to wait for about 10 minutes while they loaded two down-bound boats into the upper chamber. The Lockmaster came on the PA system, welcomed us to the lock, and said that the transfer would start shortly. A few seconds later, we felt ourselves start to rise. It was amazingly smooth! Hardly a ripple in the water. The ride up takes about 90 seconds. It was cool to watch as the boat rose higher and higher. We waved to the down-bounders as we passed mid-lift. We got to within about 5 feet of the top, and the lift stopped. We could see the operator in the control tower, and like the day before, he was pushing buttons and turning switches like mad! Ok, we’re stuck in the elevator, 60 ft in the air! After about 10 minutes of trying to get the lock to move, he came on the PA system and informed us that they would have to “adjust” the weight in the lower chamber by opening some sluices in the top door and dumping water into the lower chamber (oh and they might get wet). The sluice doors opened and two huge streams of water cascaded out about 60 feet and into the lower chamber adding water and weight. After after a few minutes, the lift started to move again, and we finished our lift! We pulled out of the chamber at 11:00. Our original plan was to turn around and do take the ride down and back up, however, given the issues with the lock we didn’t want to push our luck and get stuck at the bottom again.
Note: We heard that they closed the lock again shortly after we went through for several hours, and for part of the next day. On Saturday, they plan a “Paddle the Lock” event where they have a couple of hundred kayaks and canoes all cram into the chamber to try to set a record for the most boats in the chamber. This year, they will do it at night with lights on all the boats.
Our original goal for the day was clearing the Lift Lock and heading to the town and lock called Bobcaygeon about 35 miles and 9 locks ahead. Given the delays going through Peterborough, we were not sure that we’d make it, but as there were a number of locks we’d be passing through we had options for stopping early.
We cruised through the middle of Trent University on the outskirts of Peterborough, a very architecturally interesting place. 4 miles beyond the Lift Lock we came to Nassau Mills (Lock #22) a 14 ft lift. This lock is modern and mostly hydraulic so we got through this one pretty quickly.
Next was Otonabee (Lock #23) with a 12 ft lift, just a half-mile later, the door was open and we pulled right in for another quick lift. Parks Canada is doing a massive dam re-construction project on this section of the Trent-Severn canal and there was a lot of construction activity next to the lock. The lock staff however still kept their lock looking great with beautiful flowers. As we pulled out of the lock, there were divers in the water so we had to make a wide swing and take it slow as we passed.
Two and a half miles later was Douro (Lock #24) again being late in the season paid off as we were able to pull right into the lock with no wait for another 12 ft lift. In their garden, they had painted flat rocks with the Flag Alphabet for Welcome. Very cute.
A mile on we reached Sawyer Creek (Lock #25) and again they were open and waiting for us, and again there was a lot of construction on the adjacent dam. After our 10 ft lift, we met a canoeist that was heading downstream. Usually, canoes and kayaks have to portage around the locks (carry their boats) but because of the limited access due to construction and low traffic, they were putting him through the lock right after we left. The lock staff told us that there was another boat already in the lock at Lakefield Lock, less than a mile ahead that was waiting for us, so we “slightly” exceeded 6 mph, the speed limit, to get there so that they would not have to wait too long.
When we reached Lakefield (Lock #26) which is a 16 ft lift, the other boat was in and waiting so we pulled in beside them and the water started rising before we had fully tied off and before the back doors were closed! I guess they were in a hurry for lunch! When we were approaching Lakefield, we could see a huge smokestack and were wondering that it was for. As we reached the top of the lock, we could see that it was the Savage Arms Company, a Canadian manufacturer of rifles and shotguns. We pulled out of Lakefield behind the other cruiser which was a family from Ontario and down a long narrow channel and passed some very interesting houseboats before entering Katchewanooka Lake.
For almost the entire day, we’d been limited to 5.5 knots (6 MPH) due to speed restrictions as the channel is very narrow and they are experiencing erosion problems so it’s a strict no-wake policy. When we reached the lakes, we had hoped to make up some time by going fast. NOT! The lakes here are filled with islands and rocks that are either just above or more worryingly just below the surface. On the map, they look like big open lakes but most have the 5.5-knot speed restriction as you have to pick your way through a minefield of rocks and boulders keeping very aware of the markers.
We also started to meet many Houseboats. The area called the Kawarthas has many large interconnected lakes and there are over 20 houseboat rental companies. Most of the people renting houseboats are inexperienced, and the houseboats, unlike the “Le Boats” we’d seen on the Rideau canal, do not have rubber bumpers around them. They are essentially campers on pontoons with big flat sides and are very susceptible to wind. We already knew that we’d have a long day, but with the extensive speed restrictions, having to play dodgem with houseboats, and the locks, we decided that we would not try to get all the way to Bobcaygeon Lock, but would stop at Buckhorn Lock instead.
At 2:30, after about a 5-mile run, we reached Youngs Point (Lock #27) a 7 ft lift. After Youngs Point Lock we entered “Clear Lake” and there were a few spots where we were able to get up to 8 knots, but only for very short periods.
The next lock in the line is Burleigh Falls about 10 miles after Youngs Point. In between Clear Lake and Burleigh Falls is Stony Lake. Stony Lake lives up to its name, it’s full of large, partially submerged boulders. This is where the Loopers on Summertime Blues, that we’d most recently met in Campbellford, had run aground on a submerged boulder and severely damaged their boat costing them over 4 weeks and thousands of dollars in repairs.
We picked our way through the channel watching the markers carefully and just taking our time. Stony Lake is beautiful with many small islands with beautiful cottages on them. It is also the location of St. Peter’s on-the-Rock, a quaint church built on an island where the only access is by boat. We breathed a sigh of relief when we reached Burleigh Falls (Lock #28) and exited Stony Lake without incident.
Burleigh Falls is a larger lock with a 24 ft lift (it was originally two locks #28 and #29 but was combined when it was rebuilt). We went through and into Lower Buckhorn Lake.
When we go to the top of the lock where the tie-ups were, it was filled with houseboats, and given that we still had a few hours to go to Buckhorn Lock our destination for the night, we started to get worried that we might not be able to get a docking spot. Lower Buckhorn lake, was pretty much like Stony Lake, full of narrow channels between rocks. Just a mile on, we reached Lovesick Lock (Lock #30), which is unique in that it is on an island and therefore remote, we thought that this might be an option for the night, but as we approached we could see the houseboats had already filled the walls, and others were tied up to trees on some of the nearby islands.
We went through Lovesick which is only a 3.5 ft lift with a few other boats and into a more open section of Lower Buckhorn Lake. We were able to make up some time here as the water deepened and there were no speed restrictions. 6 miles later, and just 30 minutes before the locks closed at 5:30 we reached Buckhorn Lock (Lock #31). As we turned the corner and saw the lock, our hopes of spending the night there were dashed. It was a circus of houseboats. The docking walls were full, there were houseboats sideways in the channel. As we locked through the 12 ft lift, and chatted with the lockmaster about docking space, he said they were full up, but that if we came back after 5:30 we could tie up to the waiting line if there was still space. While we were lifting, a houseboat pulled into the channel in front of the lock pouring smoke out the back. The lock staff ran over thinking the boat was on fire! Turns out there was someone on the back cooking hamburgers on a “CHARCOAL GRILL” !!! (Note: houseboats mostly use gasoline engines, the fuel tank is in the back of the boat, right under where he was cooking) We got out of there as fast as we could!
We had seen that there was a marina just a mile into Buckhorn lake and decided to try that instead. We called the marina on the phone but the office closed at 4:30, We decided to cruise past anyway. When we pulled up, there were a couple of guys putting gas in a boat. We asked if they had transient space and they said that they didn’t work there, and the marina was closed for the night. We noticed that there was an open spot on the front dock of the marina beside a boat our size. We circled out into the lake trying to decide what to do, do go back to the zoo, or do the pirate sailboat trick and dock after closing. Given that there was a good chance that there was not going to be space at the Lock anyway, we decided to take our chances at the marina. We pulled into the slip, tied off, and kept an eye out for someone to come running over and kick us out. There were two guys sitting by the boat sheds who looked our way but seemed uninterested. We got tied up and found a plug to run the A/C system. I walked to the office just to check if someone was there, but all was dark. Barry, one of the guys sitting by the boats came over and explained that the staff had left early for a funeral, but that he was sure that it would be fine for us to stay and pay in the morning.
Feeling better about crashing the party, we settled in and cooked dinner on the boat, then went to bed early after a VERY long and stressful day!
Thursday – Aug 22nd – 27.4 NM – 2 Locks – To: Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada
After a stressful day on Wednesday, we had a shortish day on Thursday. We decided to go to Fenelon Falls where there was a very active Harbor Host and a mooring wall with power. I woke up around 6:00 and was able to catch a very nice sunrise across the lake. We had to wait for the office to open so that we could pay for our nights’ mooring. I checked in around 8:00 and the accountant said that the “dock guy” who took payment for mooring and fuel should be in by 9:00. As I was walking back to the boat, a sailboat from Michigan that had done a quick pass last night pulled in looking for fuel and a pump-out and we chatted for a little while. 9:00 arrived and the dock guy still had not shown up. About 9:15 he finally showed up and we paid for our nights’ mooring (we got a deal because he felt bad about being late). He also showed us a large rock at the end of the dock we were on that we probably would have hit leaving! The water was so clear, that he just pointed and said, “There it is.”. We backed out of the slip, being careful to avoid the rock, and went out into Buckhorn Lake.
We passed a few more islands that the Anhinga (Cormorants) had destroyed. I was talking with a local and found out that years ago, the water here was tea-colored and murky with only about 2 ft of visibility. Then the Zebra Mussels arrived brought in by boats that moved from lake to lake. The Zebra Mussels ate all of the debris in the water which caused the water to clear, and water plants that need light and used to only grow in the shallows, to grow in deeper water. This caused the small fish population to explode, which reduced the habitat of the Sturgeon, Bass, and other large game fish that need open water to run. The small fish attracted the Anhinga who eat both the fish and the zebra mussels. The Anhinga population exploded, and they took over islands, covering trees with their poop, and killing all plant life on the island. Now the Zebra mussel population is declining because of a lack of food. They hope that that will cause the water to get less clear and kill the deep water plants and reduce the small fish population. Nature seems to be re-balancing herself.
After crossing Buckhorn Lake we approached Pigeon lake. As we were approaching the cut, we heard a radio broadcast from our old friend the Kawartha Voyageur. It was just coming through the narrow cut in front of us so we throttled down and let her pass through first. We got a toot and a wave of thanks from the captain and lots of waves from the passengers.
We reached Bobcaygeon (Lock #32) and the lock walls were full, so we were glad that we had not pushed on last night. After the lock, we were into Sturgeon Lake. We went past a very unique-looking boat, it’s a camper on pontoons. We’d seen some interesting retrofits, but this is a commercial RV that is half trailer and half pontoon boat, very cool!
Just before reaching Fenelon Falls and Lock (Lock #34 this used to be #33 & 34 but has been combined), we entered a narrow cut with lots of homes perched on the cliff sides, then passed Fenelon Falls, and into the lock. This lock is a 24 ft lift. As we were lifting, we told the lock staff that we wanted to spend the night, they said the wall was pretty full but that several of the boats were just there for the day.
As we came out of the lock, we started looking for a mooring spot but didn’t see any. As we were heading for the waiting wall on the opposite bank, a small boat pulled out and left about a 40′ spot. We need 44 ft with the swim platform and the anchor, but, we’re only 38 ft at the waterline. There was a gentle current and only a light breeze, so, we decided to try to get in. The owner of the boat behind came out to help, we pulled up next to the spot, and checked, The swim platform would be under the anchor of the boat behind, and we just cleared the anchor pulpit of the boat ahead, so I kicked in the side thrusters and we slid into the spot! We got tied off and were in!
One of the attractions of Fenelon Falls for us was that they have fantastic Harbor Hosts, Pam and Gary Vaters. Pam and Gary run a store called Water Street Closeline where they sell Kawartha Lakes shirts and imprinted items. Brenda had reached out to Pam while we were heading up, and she said that she was out of town for the day, but would meet us in the late afternoon at the store. After tying up and settling it was 2:00.
The wall we were tied up to is right off of the main street and has several restaurants and shops right on the other side of the wall. We then walked over to Pam’s store and visited with Tammy in the store for a bit while waiting for Pam to arrive. We decided to pop next door and have a quick bit of lunch before it got too late, so had a slice of pizza, and then went back and met Pam and Gary. They were wonderful! They are Great Harbor Hosts who provided us with excellent information about the area, where to eat, where to avoid, some local hidden treasures. What’s interesting is that they don’t own a cruising boat, have never done the loop, and don’t have plans to. They are just passionate about their area and are excellent business people who recognize that Loopers bring a lot of revenue to their area and are anxious to service us to ensure we come back and recommend their towns to our fellow Loopers.
That evening we had dinner at Murphy’s a pub just a minute walk from the boat.
Friday – Aug 23rd – 0 NM – In: Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada
Friday morning we were invited back to meet Marylin the head of the local Chamber and some other local business people who were working on the new Trent-Severn Trail Town Program. After chatting with them, we walked around town visiting some of the local shops, the farmers market, and the bakery.
We dropped off our purchases at the boat, then walked to the local History Museum. Pam had said that it was very nice, but we’ve seen so many small museums in our travels that we thought it would be a quick visit. We were pleasantly surprised! The museum was larger than it appeared on the outside and had a great collection of local historical artifacts as well as some historical films showing the lumber and canal history of the area. We spent about an hour there, then walked back along the waterfront to the boat.
We’d been having a problem with the hot water pressure on the boat slowly decreasing until this morning it was just a trickle. While we were in a town with a Canadian Tire (sort of a mega Ace Hardware), I decided to see if I could correct the issue. We have water filters in the boat, so since the cold water was fine, I assumed that maybe some calcium buildup from the heating elements had clogged the water pipes leading from the hot water heater. I pulled off a few hoses that were easy to reach and we hooked up a water hose to backflush it. The water pushed out, but still only at a slow trickle even in reverse. So I pulled out the access cabinet in the bathroom and crawled into the space under the stairs where the hot water heater is. I found the pressure relief valve on the hot water heater and noticed a “flush” control next to it. I opened the flush control and let about 10 gallons of water dump into the bilge. After flushing the heater and re-attaching the hoses, we had a normal flow of hot water again! I love it when something turns out to be simple and cheap. (Now that I’ve said that, the water heater will fail in the next few weeks and we’ll have to replace it, just you wait and see! I just hope it holds off until we are back in the US.)
The town of Fenelon Falls is split by the Canal. Pam told us that the Northside with the main business district is the Canadian side, and the Southside is the American side. After cleaning up from our water heater repair, we crossed the bridge to the American side to see what was there. The American side is newer and more commercial with a Tim Hortons, the local large grocery store, and gas stations. We stopped at the Kawartha Shortbread Company and picked up some of their famous Shortbread Cookies, then went to the grocery store for a few supplies. After crossing back over the river, we stopped by the boat to drop stuff off, then headed back out to do a Geocache that we’d seen.
The Geocache was up on a hill where the water tower was and is the location of the old St. James Church. All that remains of the original church is the foundation outline and the old graveyard, which was interesting to see. The oldest stone we found dated from 1800, and we saw that 1869 was a very bad winter in town as there were a lot of deaths that year. Whoever takes care of the old cemetery has done a great job of preservation. So many old cemeteries we have seen are run down, or the old stones are gone, either stolen, vandalized, or just suffering from the ravages of time. The geocache turned out to be down a hidden side trail that was the original path up from town to the church. We found the cache and dropped off a travel bug. We then walked past the NEW St James Church built in 1909, and then back down Main Street to Fenelon Falls on the other side of the lock, then walked around the old mill site. The original double lock walls are still in place, we came through them on our way in, and the area is now a park.
In the evening we stopped back by Pam’s shop to say goodbye to her and Gary, then went to a local hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant that Pam and Gary had recommended. We would definitely have given it a miss had we not had a recommendation, but it was GREAT! The food was very good, and the owner and chef were very attentive checking in with us several times during the meal to make sure we were happy. Thanks, Pam for an excellent recommendation!
Saturday – Aug 24th – 40 NM – 7 Locks – To: Orillia, Ontario, Canada
We planned a long run on Saturday to get to Orillia. Orillia is a mid-sized city on lake Simcoe. We had our next prescription order forwarded to a UPS store here as it was far enough away that we’d be sure it would arrive before we did. We got the boat ready, retrieving our power cords from the very cool underground ducts that keep the large number of tourists that wander the lock walls from tripping over them. When they re-built the mooring walls, they embed PVC tubes in the concrete between the power poles and the edge of the wall. Great idea! We pulled out of Fenelon Falls right at 9:00 and crossed the 2 miles of Cameron Lake to our first lock of the day, Rosedale (Lock #35). Rosedale was a pretty standard lock with a short 4 ft lift, and we only had to wait a few minutes to go in. After Rosedale lock, we went through a narrow channel and entered Balsam Lake which was an easy crossing of another 3 miles.
We then reached what is called the “Trent Canal”, it’s the longest dug portion of the Trent-Severn waterway. The canal is narrow, only 25 feet wide most of its length, with steep sides, and large rock piles beyond that from where the canal was dug out. As we entered there was a sign advising boats over 40 ft to make a Security Call in case another large boat was coming the other way. We made the call and didn’t hear any reply so we ventured in.
One of the interesting things we noticed was that because of our displacement and the narrow shallow channel, if you looked to the side just in front of the boat, and then watched that spot, the water dropped almost 12 inches as we passed. You could also see the water plants which were facing forward, get sucked back. I’ve seen videos of this with large cruise ships sucking the water out of small harbors as they leave, never thought I’d see the Frog do it!
Two and a half miles in we crossed Mitchell lake, which while it has wider water, is not much wider a channel, then back into the narrow channels for another 2.5 miles until we approached the Kirkfield Lift Lock. Luckily we only met a few smaller boats when we were in the narrow channels, and we reached Kirkfield Lift Lock (Lock #36) at about 11:15.
The Kirkfield Lift Lock is similar to the Peterborough Lift Lock and is two large bathtubs that you float on while the elevator takes you up or down. Kirkfield is smaller than Peterborough by 10 ft at 57 feet and is mostly steel construction rather than concrete. It’s also the highest point on the Trent-Severn so it’s where we start going down again instead of up. As we approached, they dropped the gate for us and we were able to float right in. It’s a bit disconcerting to see a 57-foot drop, only about 15 feet in front of the boat. When we first started training, I had a bad habit of going beyond idle power when docking (hitting the accelerator rather than the break in car terms), Geoff our training Captain told me I had to break myself of the habit or I’d get in trouble someday. Boy am I glad I did! A little extra power here and over the end you’d go! There were no other boats waiting, so as soon as we were tied off and the gate had closed we started dropping! Kirkfield seems faster than Peterborough and in about 1 minute we were down and the front gate was dropping. I complimented the lock staff on doing a better job than Peterborough as we didn’t get stuck!
After Kirkfield, there is another 3/4 of a mile of narrow waterway and then the sides open up into a shallow lake, the channel, is still very narrow and at times we were only seeing 5 feet of water. Shortly after entering the wider area, we heard a loud THUMP! Just one, and it was on the port side, toward the middle of the channel. We immediately went to idle and looked behind us but didn’t see anything. We took it very slowly until the water deepened some more, then increased RPM to see if we’d done any prop damage. There was a definite vibration from the port side. CRAP! (not really what I said but we’ll keep the blog G rated). At lower RPM there was no vibration and most of the area we were in was a 6-knot zone so it didn’t make much difference.
We reached the “Hole In The Wall Bridge” which is a very nice full arch bridge. We had read that you can take a picture of your boat in a circle from the reflection on a calm day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t calm enough and there was other boat traffic going through so we didn’t get the reflection shot.
Shortly after the Hole In The Wall Bridge, we had a swing bridge that opened as soon as we got close, and we reached Bolsover Lock (Lock #37). Again the door was open when we got there but we had to wait for a few minutes as there was a Cruiser behind us coming into the lock. Bolsover was a 22 ft drop and brought us into a section of the canal that had been re-built over last winter so it was very straight, with nice rip-rock sides and slightly wider. This section has 4 locks about a mile apart and is basically straight until you reach Lake Simcoe.
We went through the 4 locks with the other boat one right after another with only a short 4 to 5-minute wait on two of the locks for upbound boats. These locks were:
Talbot, Lock #38 at 14 ft drop
Portage, Lock #39 at a 13 ft drop
Thorah, Lock #40 at a 14 ft drop
Gambridge, Lock #41 at an 11ft drop
From there we had about 2 miles and one swing bridge that opened as we approached, and it was into Lake Simcoe. Lake Simcoe is one of the largest lakes in Canada (aside from the Great Lakes) at 20 miles long and 16 miles across. It’s reported that during high winds, waves can reach 8 feet on this lake!
As we pulled into the lake, it was our first opportunity to go fast with the boat and see how bad our vibration was. With gritted teeth, we advanced the throttles. At 1,800 RPM where we had felt the significant vibration before, there was nothing! We increased to 2,800 RPM and still no vibration. Humm….. We went all the way to 3,400 RPM and still running smooth! We can only figure that we either hit a log and got a chunk stuck on the propeller or got wrapped in a rope that the line cutters and the forward/reverse action of locking spun off. Regardless it was with great relief that we could speed 16 miles across the lake at about 20 MPH. (Note: when we had the boat hauled on the Tenessee River a few months later, they found what looked like a fish casting net wrapped around the line cutters. That was probably it.)
As we were crossing the lake, we could see many high-performance boats speeding along the far shore. We found out later they were holding a “Poker Run” race for the high-performance race boats. Some were close to 100 ft long, 4 inboard engines, and run on high-octane aviation fuel. We reached “The Narrows” which connects Lake Simcoe with Lake Couchiching at 3:30 and slowed down to navigate the narrow channel. The point at the Narrows is the Eastern end of Orillia the town where we would be stopping for the next 3 nights. We made the turn after the point and went about 3 miles down Lake Couchiching to The Port of Orillia and our marina. The Port was the home base of the Speed Boat Poker Run so it was very busy. We called in on the radio, had our slip assignment confirmed, and as it was right off the entrance, and we’d have to wait 15 minutes for dock-hands, so we just pulled in on our own with a bit of help from other boaters on the dock. We were all tied up and checked in by 4:00.
That evening, we were tired from a long day, so we walked to a restaurant just across the street from the marina for a burger dinner. We were celebrating a bit that our “THUMP” didn’t cause any damage and Brenda had a Vodka-based blueberry drink!!!!! (Note: after drinking about 1/4 of it, she “accidentally” dumped it onto the table and into my lap, there were blueberries rolling all over the table and floor. She was shut-off for the rest of the night.)
As if a warning, as we walked back to the marina after dinner, there was a sign for a local Propeller Service company “Rocked the boat? Call the experts!”
UPDATE!!! The Peterborough Lift Lock – Lock & Paddle Light Up the Night Event happened Saturday Evening. There were several hundred boats that participated. Here’s a photo of the boats in the lock. Looks like it was a great time, and no reports that the lock got stuck!
Sunday – Aug 25th – 0 NM – In: Orillia, Ontario, Canada
Sunday morning we slept in then Brenda did 3 loads of wash (free washers and dryers at the marina!) while I did some maintenance on the boat, cleaning the plants out of the filters, tightening up the belt on one of the engines (it was the Starboard engine Michael), checking the fluids (I’ve only had to add about a cup or two of coolant, and there’s been no transmission fluid or oil drop since I changed them 80 hours ago, again, thanks to Michael at A&M for making sure that everything was in top shape before we left! So far, all of our major issues have been self-inflicted!)
In the afternoon, we walked a couple of miles down the waterfront along the bike and walking paths to a park where they were having a Craft Beer and Rib fest. Along the path, they have decorated sailboat sculptures. The Craft Beers were all local Ontario brewers, I had a very nice, hoppy IPA, and the BBQ vendors were all advertised as being from the USA (Texas, Kentucky, and Louisiana). They were all award winners, but I noticed that all of the awards were from Canadian cities and their BBQ trucks all had Ontario license plates. We chose beef ribs from the Louisiana BBQ truck and while they were prepping them, I chatted with the chef, sounds like he’s an old Cajun Boy (whether French Canadian Cajun or Louisiana Cajun I don’t know).
After eating our ribs, we walked back toward the marina. We got back at around 6:15, and I kept walking. Brenda was tired (not used to walking that much), but she stuck with it for another 1/2 mile. I had read that there was a concert band giving a concert in the park just up the boardwalk from the Marina. The concert was in the Rotary Club Aqua Theatre, a nice bandshell on the waterfront and insight of the marina. The “Markham Concert Band” was visiting from a town about 70 miles south. It’s a community orchestra of about 65 members and they did a very nice mix of pop, march, and show-tune medleys. We stayed until intermission when it started getting cold and we walked back to the boat and turned in for the night.
NEXT WEEK: One more day in Orillia, finishing up the Trent-Severn and heading out into Georgian Bay!
Tom & Brenda