The Trent-Severn Waterway

Last glimpse of the US for a while - Oswego, NY

Last glimpse of the US for a while – Oswego, NY

Leaving the dock at 7:20 a.m. on the 22nd of June, we waved goodbye to the US and entered Lake Ontario. It was a perfect day to make the crossing, the seas almost flat, with sunny skies and only a little haze. We decided to take the most direct route across, almost due north for 50 miles, then another 50 miles through the many switchbacks in the scenic Bay of Quinte’.

Ship on Lake Ontario

Ship on Lake Ontario

It was a long day – 11 hours of non-stop cruising. We were happy to see the town of Trenton and the Fraser Park Marina with Craig the harbor master waiting out on the dock to grab our lines. We had made it to Canada without issues, although there was loads of water in one of the Racor filters.

Ferry Station on Bay of Quinte'

Ferry Station on Bay of Quinte’

Jim went aboard to clear customs and we got settled in. We saw Terry and Anne aboard “Quality Time”, Canadians whom we had seen a few times before. We met some new friends Erik and Karen across the dock from us, and we all commiserated for a while. Jim and I took a short walk around town.

Gateway to the Trent Severn Waterway Bridge

Gateway to the Trent Severn Waterway Bridge

Monday morning we walked to the Metro grocery store to get a few things, the drug store where I printed some 8×10 photos of the grand-kids, and the LCBO – that’s what liquor stores are called here in Canada. If you want beer though, you have to go to The Beer Store.

The 1st Lock on the Trent Severn

The 1st Lock on the Trent Severn

An electrician came to check our battery voltage, as we were having a few issues. We talked to many of the locals. At dinner time we walked across the Gateway to the Trent Severn Waterway bridge with Terry and Anne to a restaurant/bowling alley called Wahoo’s. Afterward we got a tour of Erik and Karen’s custom-made Duffy and shared docktails aboard “A-RIVER-DERCI” with Anne, Terry, Erik and Karen.

Locking thru with Erik and Karen

Locking thru with Erik and Karen

The next morning after a hearty breakfast, pump-out, and re-fueling we started our journey on the Trent Severn. We had tried to watch the weather, but temps were given in Celsius and wind speed was given in kilometers, so none of it made a whole lot of sense.

Canada Geese in the Grasses along the Shore

Canada Geese in the Grasses along the Shore

At the first lock I climbed off and paid for our locking and mooring permits. Lock 1 is the only one you can call via VHF radio. But it’s surprising how well they keep track of you with all the boat traffic. They communicate with the next lock, and so on and so on.

In the Lock at Healey Falls

In the Lock at Healey Falls

At most locks there are walls where you can tie up for the night if you’ve purchased your mooring pass. If you are planning on going through a lock, you are supposed to tie up on the blue line which indicates to the lock workers that you intend to go through.

Tied up to Wall above Lift Locks 16 and 17

Tied up to Wall above Lift Locks 16 and 17

We went through Locks 1 through 6 that first day, meeting up with Erik and Karen. All day we locked through with the same 3 other boats, getting into a rhythm and tying to the cables in the locks on the same side when possible. The locks are small, but much nicer than those on the Erie. Many of them have no hydraulics – workers walk around turning this big handle to open the doors, and crank this contraption to manually regulate the water flow.

Drained Canal below Lock 16

Drained Canal below Lock 16

We stayed on the wall above Lock 6 that evening. The sky became overcast and looked a little threatening. We grilled burgers, took a walk to the park along the river, but soon the rain and thunder sent us inside. We planned our next day’s travel and laid low.

On Wed. the 25th we set a new record of going through 11 locks in the same day, including 2 sets of flight locks. Those are 2 locks together, they share the middle set of doors, so as you drive out of one, you are driving into another. The day was cloudy and cool, but the scenery kept getting better as we went along. We stopped along the port wall above Lock 17. The setting was very rural with birdsong and wildflowers.

Lock Emptied of Water

Lock Emptied of Water

We walked back to the flight locks of 16 and 17 and were amazed that all of the water had been drained out of the lower lock and the approach canal. It was an impressive sight. That night we got treated to a great many fireflies lighting up the bushes and brush along the wall.

The weather the next day was a perfect 10. Lock #18 is at Hastings, which reminded us of Lock #2 on the Mississippi at a town of the same name. After leaving the lock you enter Rice Lake which is dotted with islands and beautiful cottages. Fisherman were out in abundance, and the 10 km/hr speed limit signs were posted along some of the narrow sections. Loons could be seen and heard along the way. Now I was beginning to feel like I was ‘up north’ in Minnesota.

Islands in Rice Lake

Islands in Rice Lake

After navigating the lake, the Trent Severn follows the Otonabee River. Shortly inside the river we came across a young Asian couple in a little motorized rowboat waving their arms. Despite the language barrier, we understood their trouble, hooked up one of our stern lines, and gave them a tow back to

Towing Stranded Couple on the Otonabee River

Towing Stranded Couple on the Otonabee River

the resort where they were staying. It was about an 8 mile run up the river, and slow going. They looked so happy to be rescued, smiling and laughing under their sun umbrella.

We continued up the narrow windy river toward Lock 19, but missed the last opening at Scott Mills, so we tied to the starboard wall behind the blue line. We walked into Peterborough to get ice and ended up eating at a good little Italian restaurant. Back at the boat we made a fix to stop the generator from sparking, Jim added a ground wire, and I washed my hair in the galley sink, as showers are hard to come by on the Trent Severn.

Loons (the MN State Bird) along the Waterway

Loons (the MN State Bird) along the Waterway

Friday the 27th we beat our previously broken record and went through 12 locks. “Quality Time” with their mast stepped and braced by 2×4’s, caught up to us, and we spent the day locking through with them, including the big lift lock at Peterborough. The lift locks are like a ride at the fair. You drive into a big pan, and boats on the upside drive into a pan. You tie to a bar, and the whole pan is lifted up in 2 minutes while the other pan is lowered. The 2 pans balance each other.

The impressive Peterborough Lift Lock

The impressive Peterborough Lift Lock

The Peterborough Lift Lock was completed in 1904 and was considered an engineering marvel at the time. It is the still the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world.

As we climbed via the locks the scenery kept getting more breathtaking. Soon we entered the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario, many connected by the Trent Severn locks. My favorite lake among them is Stony Lake, which is peppered with rocky islands, many with cottages and boat houses. One even was adorned with a church. In many places the rocky bottom could be seen in the crystal clear water.

In the Lift Lock pan with Terry & Anne

In the Lift Lock pan with Terry & Anne

We stopped at the Lockside Trading Company for ice and ice cream. We anchored out in Buckhorn Lake near Terry and Anne. After swimming (bathing really) we took the dinghy over to “Quality Time” for Sundowner’s (Bahamian happy hour at sundown). It was a beautiful star-filled night, but the boat was inundated with many little bugs because of the anchor light.

On Saturday we lollygagged, went for a swim, and cleaned up bugs. That was the 28th, my daughter-in-law’s golden birthday. The lakes were crazy with boaters pulling tubers and wake boarders, rented houseboats, pleasure boaters, and fishermen zigzagging between and around the marked channel.We only went through one lock that day, and made it amid all the holiday weekend boat traffic to the village of Bobcaygeon where we surprisingly got the last spot on the wall, thanks to a very observant lock worker. That lock is the busiest of all on the Trent Severn.

Lock Working Manually Opening Doors

Lock Working Manually Opening Doors

There we met other loopers John and Sue aboard “Thanks Dad” from Pensacola. We hung out on the picnic tables and walked through the quaint little village to the grocery store for a few items. We had a late dinner aboard and watched the boat traffic go by – very entertaining!

Island Cottage on Stony Lake

Island Cottage on Stony Lake

Sunday was another hot and humid busy day on the water. We thought to grab a spot along the wall in Fenelon Falls, but it was jammed and crazy, so we went on to Lock #35 at Rosedale. It was a much quieter rural location, and we got the end spot on the port wall with a picnic table. We watched the boats parading by, grilled brats, and enjoyed the shade from the nearby trees. Jim swam and I went for a walk on a dirt cottage road. At sundown lightning lit up the sky and a short downpour ensued.

Cliff Jumpers

Cliff Jumpers

The following day was another hot one, with heavy boat traffic. We locked through at Rosedale and went to a nearby marina for water, ice, and a pump-out. We ended up buying two new batteries and had them installed. Cruising through Balsam Lake the scent of evergreens was thick in the humid air. Next came the Trent Canal, a very narrow and shallow man-made cut where we met and cautiously passed two other cruisers, barely able to squeeze by each other.

The canal opened into man-made Canal Lake, very weedy and shallow, where we went under the Hole in the Wall Bridge. We tried to get to a wall at the Bolsover Lock #37, but the nearby dam was under construction, and no mooring was available.

Another Beautiful Day on the Trent Severn

Another Beautiful Day on the Trent Severn

So we pulled into the Sunset Cove Marina. The owner’s live on sight, and many of the locals were there enjoying the long holiday weekend. We enjoyed happy hour with some of them on the dock, and many kids were swimming right in the marina. It was nice to have internet access for a change.

The Hole in the Wall Bridge

The Hole in the Wall Bridge

Canada Day (like our 4th of July) was anti-climatic. Jim caught up on his asset management, condo rental, and real estate duties via the internet. We got a ride to a local market with great fresh produce. It was another hot and humid day, but much quieter than I had anticipated. Dinner was chicken on the grill with fresh broccoli and strawberries. At sundown we heard the echoing fireworks from some nearby community, but saw none.

Thunderheads at Sunset

Thunderheads at Sunset

Wednesday the 2nd of July we drove through 5 locks, which were very close together. The scenery changed from lakes to farms. Hay rolls and barns could be seen in the distance, and cows meandered in fields along the waterway. Soon we could see Lake Simcoe in the distance, the largest of all the lakes on the Trent Severn. We took one look at the size of the waves crashing, and decided to stay put until the wind calmed down.

Lake Simcoe Entrance Breakwater

Lake Simcoe Entrance Breakwater

We spent the day tied along the wall behind the breakwater, and watched as boaters came by, drenched from the waves after crossing the lake. Some of them yelled at us, “Don’t do it!” So we hung tight. I took a walk, pulled out the cross-stitch, we watched the movie, “The Fastest Indian”, and watched a storm make its way toward us from across the lake.

Sunset near Lake Simcoe

Sunset near Lake Simcoe

Today we crossed Lake Simcoe in only 4 mph winds, so I’m glad we waited. It was a dreary and much colder day, as the storm brought in a cold front overnight with the winds coming out of the north. Rain spitted on and off, and we pulled into the Mariposa Landing Marina. Laundry desperately needed to be done, so I’m blogging in between loads. Jim got a ride into the nearby town of Orillia to a marine store, then walked to downtown and all the way back.

The marina is just off Lake Simcoe in a marshy section called the Narrows. Canada geese have overtaken the yard, and 3 mink popped out from under the dock next to our boat. Red-winged blackbirds can be heard among the reeds, and earlier we saw a Trumpeter Swan couple with their young.The Trent Severn, a national historic site run by Parks Canada, runs 240 miles north and west, connecting Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay.

At the Trent Severn Summit - Kirkland Lift Lock

At the Trent Severn Summit – Kirkland Lift Lock

We have only 4 locks left of the 44, one of which is the marine railway known as the Big Chute. We both appreciate the ever-changing natural beauty and the many friendly Canadians we’ve met along the way.

As usual we are looking forward to our next leg which is Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron with its 30,000 islands. Hope you all enjoy the 4th of July tomorrow! Until next time… A-River-Derci

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3 Responses to The Trent-Severn Waterway

  1. Ron Newton says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences, I appreciate it. Last month I delivered a boat from Two Rivers marina to the Detroit river. My favorite part was Lake Michigan, beautiful clear water and as a decal I saw said “Unsalted and Shark Free”. On the north end there were 2 stops that I really enjoyed, Beaver Island and South Manitou Island. Beaver has a couple of marinas we stayed at the municipal it’s a short walk to a well stocked grocery where the owner will give you a ride back to your boat. South Manitou no longer has inhabitants, maybe a park ranger during summer. If you stop there is a cove with good anchoring that is well protected from all wind except from the south west. There is also a freighter on the south end that ran aground during a storm in November of 1960, it’s a big bird house now. http://www.nps.gov/slbe/historyculture/shipwreckmorazan.htm

    • rossmanpj says:

      Ron,
      You comment on our blog more than anyone! Thanks for the words of wisdom on Lake Michigan. We are currently in Little Current, at the beginning of the North Channel, and hope to hit Lake Michigan in a week or so. We are really loving Canada, but are anxious to be back in the States with better access to phone, internet, email, etc. Sounds like you had a great adventure of your own. Regards, and best to you! Hope to see you on the waterway again some day soon!

  2. Ron Newton says:

    Edit – the cove is protected from all but south east wind.

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