Leaving Ottawa behind reluctantly, we enter the Rideau Canal and almost immediately come upon the Largest Beach Volleyball Tournament in the World. It is put on every year by HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) and we pass boats and boats of guys going toward it who are really too old to be going to this anymore but I guess they are in it for the sightseeing rather than for competing in volleyball matches!
Once we get by this mess, we change the pace from city explorers, in a hurry to see as much as we can into country wanderers taking our time and enjoying the countryside. There is no reason to be in a hurry here. The scenery is fabulous and there are locks every couple of miles, either singles or combined in stairsteps of 2 or 3. So even if we pass someone, odds are we will end up in the lock together anyway.
A leisurely pace works well most of the time but other times you just HAVE to pass, as in the case of our following a home-made houseboat with an outboard engine, we laughingly dub “Escargot.” To stay behind him, we have to keep popping the boat in and out of gear, which she detests and so finally we do pass him but he calls ahead to the next lock, telling the lock master to hold us up so he can enter first because he “has trouble steering in close spaces.”
We are so gracious when he finally arrives that I fear I am getting cavities from all the sweetness we bestow on this grumpy old man. We wish him “Bon Vacances!” and leave him behind yet again. There is space between the next couple of locks and we put enough distance between us to be free of him in the locks but for the next couple of days we play leap frog with him at various stopping points (turns out he can manage his boat very well even if he enters a lock second!).
And so, we slow it down, with no particular plan for where we will end up each evening, trusting fate to put us somewhere lovely and it does. The first day out, we find Black Rapids, a spot that is usually full by noon but today has a space for us. It is only eleven but we decide to take advantage of the peaceful surroundings by stopping here. We tie up to the wall and make friends with some Canadians whose boat is named Making Memories too and share experiences with them. They depart after lunch and we settle in to enjoy a peaceful afternoon. We are not far from Ottawa and a few families have brought picnic lunches to share on the tables in the shade of huge elm trees.
This is the first automatic lock (controlled by a push button panel) we have seen for a while and Louise, the lockmaster gratefully accepts some fresh basil that I have trimmed from my plant, breathing it in and declaring it the “perfect aromatherapy for a hot afternoon!”
Towards six PM (locks close at 7 here) I guess some of the folks from the HOPE event are on their way home because our idyllic setting turns into Woodstock, with boats rafted to each other, due to lack of wall space. People are grilling, music is blasting, there are kids and dogs everywhere and then they all decide to jump into the canal to swim, bathe and even do a little laundry. Canada is in the midst of a heat wave with the “humidex” putting temperatures well over 100 degrees. We decide not to fight city hall and jump off our swim platform into the cool water. It isn’t deep and the bottom hosts a variety of vegetation so I don’t put my feet down. It feels so good to cool down and get clean! We are happy to have power so that we can use our air conditioners as white noise. It doesn’t get dark until after 10 here and those of you who know us, know that we are toast long before then, even if the party continues!
The next couple of days see us travelling only 20 or 30 miles and stopping in Kilmarnock and then Smiths Falls. Kilmarnock is really nothing more than a lock surrounded by fields and this time it is quiet and peaceful all night. We tie off on the wall below the lock with another boat above it and one kayak camper lost somewhere in the woods across the canal. Smiths Falls is more of a small city and is on a wide part of the canal so there are many boats on the walls and we opt for a finger pier in the campground so that we have water to refill our fresh water tanks. We are pleasantly surprised to see that we have part of one water tank and all of the other still full so we are learning how to measure our water usage without gauges to assure us of our levels.
Jerry changes our fuel filters while we are here and then we are off for the Rideau Lakes!
Oh, for you boaters (or RV’ers) who are reading this; our black water gauge has worked intermittently since we bought the boat and it finally just quit a couple of months ago. Lori on m/v Reality told us to flush some Tang down the toilets and guess what!?!?!? It worked, our black water gauge works reliably now so we know when we are close to needing the tank pumped out. I knew that using Tang in a dishwasher once in a while keeps the guts healthy but it never occurred to me to use it in the holding tank on a boat (guess it might work in an RV too). You learn all kinds of things from other boaters, thanks, Lori!
We pull into Rideau Ferry Harbor marina in hopes of finding a mechanic, as we have a couple of issues that we want professional consultation on and we are in luck to find Barry who owns a boat VERY similar to ours with the exact same engines. He helps Jerry know what parts he needs to buy to fix a small oil leak on our dipstick or oil return (not sure of the technical language here) and explains that our engines were made when diesel fuel contained a lot of sulfur, which it no longer does and this is why we need to make sure we include an additive when we fuel up to reduce exhaust smoke. We have been doing this but find that we may need to add a bit more than we had been doing. Barry states that our Ford Lehman engines are beasts and that with a little care, they will run forever.
We are very reassured and after Jerry makes some of the suggested repairs, we spend the night at this marina, which really feels more like a summer camp than a marina.
We get out on the lake system early the next day and wander through the Little Rideau Lake system, finding Howes Bay and deciding to stay here for the night. It is a tiny little bay that looks more like a cenote (sinkhole) than a real bay. It feels like we are in Ireland, the trees and mossy undergrowth are so green and when the sun reaches high, the sandy bottom near the shore actually glows green. The rim is completely rock-lined and the water passing by the rocks sounds like a constantly rushing river. We can hear the wind in the trees and birds calling to each other but there are no human sounds at all and it is incredibly peaceful.
We pass the day swimming, reading, doing some boat chores and catching up on some work-related stuff before enjoying dinner on the flying bridge. There are a pair of loons calling back and forth to each other as they dive for their dinners and the moon is high in the sky.
Later that night we will get up to gaze at the stars. There is no city light pollution here and the stars are absolutely brilliant. We can clearly see the milky way and note how much higher the constellations are from the horizon than they are at home. This is an amazing place to call home for a day!
I would have stayed in Howse Bay for a week if we weren’t up against a bit of a time deadline now. We move along and travel through a lovely part of the Big Rideau Lake. On the shore, there are simple chalets and huge modern homes and everything in between, all proudly flying the Canadian flag on their docks and boathouses. The shore line reminds me of Maine, very rocky and pretty.
The lake narrows down to a canal that again looks like it would be better navigated via kayak or canoe and it is SHALLOW!!! The water is clear and, standing on the bow, I can see the bottom, rocky in some places and lush in others with waving weeds that reach green fingers up toward the surface.
The boat ahead of us has to slow down to allow a swimming deer safe passage across the canal and then we come upon a sign that indicates a sharp turn and sounding one’s horn will increase odds of safe passage. All along this canal, I have been praying that nothing is coming the other way because there is really not enough width or depth to allow two boats of our size to pass safely. Fortunately, we make it without encountering any boats going the opposite way.
We come around the bend and see the walls of the Newboro Lock. This lock is the pinnacle of the Rideau Canal, being 407 feet above sea level. From here until we get to Kingston, Ontario, we will be locking down rather than upwards.
There is space along the wall, with power and we decide to stop, have brunch and then decide if we will venture further today. We enjoy a quick snack of fresh fruit and some swiss cheese and crackers and then explore a little, deciding to spend the rest of the day and night here.
The wall fills quickly with boats that have the same intention and we are a sociable but quiet group of similarly aged couples. This is a bottle neck lock and boats both large and small quickly stack up waiting to lock through. It is amazing how the lock attendants fit as many boats, kayaks and jetskis as possible in like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and also manage to keep their calm while boat captains and their crew are losing theirs all around them! We see one woman on the bow of her boat berate her husband as they enter the lock, “You know, if you would PLEASE stop talking to everyone and get your line on the stern we might not get our bowsprit stuck in the works here!!?!” She is still chewing him out a half hour later as they exit the lock and pass by our boat. Poor guy.
We spend some time cleaning the engine strainers and putting some much needed wax on the boat. This is a great setting to work in and the cool breeze makes it that much more enjoyable to spiff the boat up some.
When we are done, we rinse off and venture into town. Kilborn’s general store (a very misleading name) is an upscale/artisanal grocery, gift, clothing, shoe, furniture, household gadget and toy store laid out in a maze of different rooms and levels in what appears to be an old hotel building. It is times like these where it is good to be a minimalist with no spare space and the only things we buy can be readily consumed.
There isn’t much else in the town other than the Stirling Lodge, which is a 100+ year old fishing camp and inn that was built in the 1830’s. It has old time charm and we decide to eat here. The restaurant is southern style home cooking situated in what used to be Col. John Kilborn’s (War of 1812 service) residence. It is chock-a-block full of fishermen, enjoying the fish and chicken dinners and homemade pie afterwards. The food is outstanding and I enjoy sautéed liver and onions while Jerry tries the Walleye and declares it excellent.
We spend a quiet night, sharing space with other boaters and a fair-sized contingent of campers on the other side of the locks and put a wrap on Week 28. We look forward to visiting Alexandria Harbor and the 1,000 Islands and seeing our friends in Trenton and Brighton, Ontario next week. We will then go home for a few days to attend Walker’s first birthday and attend to some personal business before we return to begin the Trent-Severn part of our adventure.