Cruising

Weeks 32 & 33 Slow Start but a BIG Finish!

Weeks 32 and 33 are being combined in one blog post because they were VERY slow going for us, which is tough after losing a whole week going home the week before this.

While some valuable things happened, we also spent about a week and a half sitting at marina docks due to mechanical issues and then weather challenges.

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This is frustrating because we are seeing the first signs of Autumn in some of the maple trees that are trading their verdant garb for yellow, rose and gold.  It is beautiful but we feel it is happening WAY too quickly!

We have become subconsciously aware of the clock ticking down toward our arrival in Chicago, if we are to be there by the first week or so of October.  We still have so much territory we want to explore prior to that!

All that being said, let me recap these last two weeks because there were some very cool experiences as well as some major Loop milestones.

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The first milestone we check off is the Peterborough Lift Lock in the Trent Severn Waterway.  This is a feat that we have been anticipating since we first started planning this trip.  Herb Seaton, the AGLCA Harbor Host for Tarpon Springs introduced us to the idea of the Loop almost 3 years ago and this lock was a real attention-getter and remains one of the most talked about sections of the Loop when Loopers get together!

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It was built in 1896 and most of it is the original structure.  It is comprised of two huge bath tub-like caissons each of which is perched atop a 7.5’ diameter, water-filled, steel ram (like a big vertical, metal tube).  These rams are connected and at the appropriate time, the valve shifts the weight of water from one to the other – there used to be a granite ball which eventually became pitted and so was replaced by the valve.

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One caisson of water is up and the other is down.  Each loads as many boats as will fit inside and a gate closes off entrance to and exit from them.  Then the valve opens and the water in the upper caisson’s ram is channeled into the lower ram forcing it 65’ upwards. No power is used, only gravity and it is almost eerily quiet as you move towards your destination.  The feeling is awesome and honestly this lock is probably the easiest we have navigated because there is no water turbulence. Once you are in the caisson, the water that is it is static and so it is a very smooth ride, unlike many of the other locks where we are trying to hold a 12 ton boat steady against a torrent of water rushing into or out of the lock.

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We were pretty pleased to make it to and through Peterborough but our engine has really been having issues.  The constant stopping and starting in the locks and the low RPM at which we have been running between locks has been making her smoke like a chimney and we finally make arrangements to have a mechanic look at her later that in the week.

We enjoy the Trent Severn and some of the interesting sights along the way but once we are in Lakefield (supposed to be a 24 hour turn around) we are there for 5 days and 4 nights.  Although it is a nice little town with an OUTSTANDING fresh market, we find that we are just not comfortable staying in one place that long anymore!

During this time, Jerry pays for and earns another semester credit in his Baccalooperate degree under the wonderful tutelage of his mechanic/mentor David who is supposed to be retired but I think he really enjoys the teaching part of his job!

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They “rock” the valves or pistons or something (really Jerry should be writing this!) and generally tune up the engine and change the oil and filters.

32 (97)They repair the oil return and re-scribe the dipstick so that it is now accurate.

32 (104)As we suspected, the port turbo elbow was reaching temperatures of over 750 degrees, which is not good and when the mechanic tries to clean it, he says that it pretty much resembles a colander.  So, a new one needs to be manufactured in Toronto, as this part is no longer available in the market – hence the delay in getting back on the water.

In the meantime, we have Danielle (the adorable 27 year old electrician/diesel mechanic who is buying David’s business and reminds us a little of Annie Causey) refreshes some of the older wiring aboard the boat making her safer and more reliable.

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And so we are finally able to get under way.  We spend the next night on the lock walls at Bobcaygeon (busy tourist town with GREAT shops and restaurants) and then on the new floating docks at Talbot lock (a quiet, bucolic setting that we like better!).

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We lock through the highest point on the entire loop when we clear the Rosedale lock at 850’ above sea level and we did another, smaller lift lock at Kirkfield (I know, I stink at selfies!) with a boat similarly named to ours.  We are now locking downward, thank goodness as it is much easier and less stressful than locking up is!

We traversed Canal Lake, biting our nails the whole way as our depth sounder was only registering 3-4’ of water and were happy to see the end of it as we went through the hole in the wall bridge, built in 1905.

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Along the TSW we have been moved from our marina dock space twice to make room for Calliope, a 75’ boat which amazes people up here, especially when they find out that her owner’s  110’ “big” boat is in Florida because she can’t fit through the locks up here.  The majority of boats up here are in the 30′ neighborhood which makes sense for scooting around the shallower water in and about the islands and canals.

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We have twice seen the Kawartha Voyageur (think back to the post about the river cruise boat that can fold her bow up in order to fit into the locks on the Rideau and Trent Severn) though she hasn’t inconvenienced us again with lock delays since that time at Jones Falls on the Rideau, thankfully!

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We emerge from the Trent Severn Waterway into Lake Simcoe, where we are amazed to see the water turn from river-brown to Florida Keys azure. The lake is gorgeous and the little town of Orillia is charming as well.

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Rotary is well represented here though when we try to attend a meeting, the Rotarians are nowhere to be found, in spite of showing the day as a meeting day on their website (this is unfortunately something we have found frequently on this trip).

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We sit at the Port of Orillia Marina on Lake Couchiching (Ojibiwe for “inlet”) for 4 days and 3 nights waiting on the weather to clear. It has been raining with wind gusts to 35 and 40 mph.  The marina is fabulous, with newly renovated bathrooms and complimentary laundry facilities.  So, everything on our boat is now freshly laundered and smells great!

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The Zebra mussels (pictured here inside a lock wall) that live in the lake eat the particulate which makes the water VERY clear but this also results in monster 8′ tall weeds  and grass that threaten all the intakes of the boats in the marina.

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Consequently, this boy has the job of raking the weed out of the marina slips and getting rid of it each day and I want to ask him if he knows who Sisyphus was!!! Between this and cleaning the prodigious amount of Canada Goose poop off the dock every morning, his job is definitely an uphill battle!

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We depart Orillia after a wonderful evening of a community band concert followed by the movie American Graffiti at the Rotary Aqua Theater in Lake Couchiching Park.   The skies finally clear for a gorgeous sunset, it gets cool and then cold and we watch  most of the movie before a stray shower sends us all scurrying for home!

The trip from Orillia takes us back into the Trent Canal, narrow and scary-shallow.  It probably isn’t as shallow as our depth sounder indicates; we think the sonar is bouncing off the dense vegetation along the way.

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The pine boughs are close enough to brush our flying bridge and we are fortunate not to encounter a boat headed in the opposite direction as there literally isn’t room for more than one boat at a time here.

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We have a new experience in the Swift Rapids lock, dubbed the “Colossal” lock.  It raises and drops boats 50 feet in about 8 minutes, which is SUPER fast!  The Parcs attendant loops my line around a pipe and walks away (first one with a bit of an attitude). I look at this pipe and think, “this isn’t going to work,”  Once we are down about two feet my line will be hung up here and that is not good.

IMG_6200Another person explains to me that the pipe is set onto a floating buoy inside the lock wall and will coast down beside me.  Okay, that’s a first!  It works amazingly well.

The highlight for the day is the Big Chute Marine Railway that lifts 4-6 boats totally clear of the water in slings and transports them across a hunk of granite that is part of the Canadian Shield and which would have been difficult to blast through to create a lock. It is the only marine railway operating in North America and it is a greatly anticipated ride!

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We round a corner of the waterway and there are 3 small boats ahead of us on the blue line (where you wait to lock through) and we hear from them that the operators have closed Big Chute for a half hour of maintenance.  No problem, we all chat and the excitement is palpable, especially for those of us who are first-timers.  Finally the Parcs folks finish pressure washing big Chute’s deck and doing what all else they needed to do and are ready for business.  A loud speaker booms across the water, announcing the order in which they wish the boats to enter the tram as it glides on rails into the water.

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Three little boats go ahead of us and we are the last boat in.  It is amazing how easily this all works.  Each small boat hits its mark, one, two, three and in we go.

As we glide into the tram behind the smaller boats, the attendants work the sling lifts upwards against our hull which slows us to a stop right where they want us.  From here on out it is an easy ride.  The tram moves upwards to its peak and then glides down the opposite side.  Tourists are racing down the steps to keep up with us, snapping photos along the way.

IMG_6224Finally, the tram starts to submerge and the small boats begin to float. Engines ignite and off they go and we follow suit with a successful exit from Big Chute now behind us.  What amazing feats of technology we have experienced on this cruise!

We have completed 123 locks and finished the last one we will encounter for a while at Port Severn. We opt to spend the night at Bay Port Marina and are so glad we. Not only is it a lovely marina, the owner Ken MacDonald has a HUGE heart for Loopers and does an hour and a half tutorial on the best places to go in Georgian Bay.

18009You literally could spend years exploring these 30,000 islands and we wish we had more time but we will spend the next week and a half or so exploring the Georgian Bay section of Lake Huron before we cross over the North Channel and head for Mackinac Island – and back into the States!

Categories: Cruising

2 replies »

  1. Dear Jean and Jerry we were all so glad to see you when you came home and thank you for taking the time out. We would love for you all to present at Rotary a program not only on your trip but a whole program just on the locks that you went through. Florida boaters don’t have a clue as to what the movement of more than 10 foot tides are like. Can’t imagine hundreds of feet of different sea levels, and getting to each of them in a boat. Thank you for sharing your adventures and look forward to your next post.

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