Thursday, July 11, 2013

Settling In On The Trent-Severn Waterway

For the route we are taking, the highlights of Canada are in 3 parts - The Trent-Severn Waterway, Georgian Bay, and the North Channel.  The Trent-Severn connects Lake Ontario with Georgian Bay.  It winds its way through the countryside for 240 miles and so far is very beautiful with small cottages lining its banks and small towns every 20 miles or so.  No Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa-size towns here.  It is very peaceful, the air is fresh and clean, the flowers are more colorful than we have ever seen anywhere, the people are super friendly, the water is clear, very little humidity, and there is a slight chill in the air most of the time.  All this makes for a very refreshing time in Canada.  Here's a map of the waterway.  We're in Hastings this evening, Peterborough tomorrow.

Now there is one very tiring and annoying thing - locks.  We've been only 51 miles so far and have had 18 locks.  Normally locks are not annoying, but Canada has cut back its government services and the locks are no longer staffed from 7AM to 7PM, and are no longer available anytime on demand.  In some cases the same lockmaster runs as many as 3 locks and literally drives back and forth several miles each time between them.  So, they have devised this ridiculous system where you have to be at certain locks at certain times of the day, and you have to run some flights of several locks without stopping.  You show up at the first lock in the flight at an appointed time (the earliest in the day is 9 AM and the latest is 3 PM), hope for a spot in the lock, and whichever boats go in the lock with you travel with you all day. 

This morning we got up at 6 AM to be at the lock by about 7:30, literally jockeying for a position to be in the first series at 9AM.  And "first-come-first-serve" doesn't always guarantee you a slot either.  The lockmaster may show up at 9AM and choose the combination of boats that moves the most traffic at one time.   

If you miss a spot in the lock you have to wait 2 hours for the next series to begin.  And these are not huge locks, so there are not that many boats able to pass through each lockage.  Yesterday we ran all day with the same four boats, today only 3 of us were able to fit inside the lock.  Here are some pictures of our little group from yesterday packed in tight in the lock and  running the canal like little school children lined up to go to the bathroom together.  (Boat number four is rafted - tied to us - on our left.)

Sorry for my cynicism but I get very frustrated watching government entities screw up a perfectly good system.  (I know Canada is not my government, but the US does the same thing.)  They have taken all of the flexibility out of traveling this waterway and it's not just my opinion - the locals are livid about it and I don't blame them. They can no longer plan a trip because there is no guarantee they will be able to get home on the last day. Trips have to end early in the afternoon with the possibility of still not getting through the last lock. According to one lockmaster, you also can't stop at the beautiful parks between the flights anymore but have to go through the entire flight. We pay a fee to use the waterway, but they pay lots of tax dollars to make it available, and it's basically not "available" to them anymore.  The businesses are complaining as well and say they are losing lots of money because the new system has killed the boat traffic by at least fifty percent. So, the government has cut back on services to save money, they are paying the lockmasters more money to drive their personal vehicles (or in some cases $20,000 government cars) back and forth between locks all day than it would cost to just staff the locks, the traffic is drastically reduced meaning less money spent by tourists and locals for fuel, food, services, etc. They probably lose more money than they save, and everyone is unhappy about the whole mess!  Sounds like a great and successful government plan to me.  

In the meantime, we are having a great time and we can deal with all of the above and that is all of the negative I'll include in this blog post.  Well, one more thing - Rhonda keeps calling the Trent-SevERn the  Trent-SevREn and it drives me a little crazy.  Now, in fairness to her, she says I don't put my shoes where they are supposed to go on the boat, and that drives her a little crazy.  Anyhow, the individual locks are each very unique but they all have a very charming feel about them.  On a side note, notice the weeping willow trees - they are huge, beautiful, and they are everywhere on the canal.  Had one of these in our yard as a kid growing up - memories.

There have been a couple of "double locks" where you drive right out of one immediately into the next one.  In the picture below they raise you to the water-line level on the blue gates in the first lock and then open those gates for entry immediately into the second lock.

Here's a view from the top looking back - most of the double locks raise you about 50 feet total.  You can see a little of the first lock below all of the signs, and the canal way down low and in the distance.

Some of the lockmasters take lots of pride in the lock and the grounds.  The lockmaster at  #18 gets the prize thus far for his flowers.

Rhonda seems to be interested in all of the things that grow on the lock walls.  They are definitely slimy and nasty and make a mess on your fenders.  That's not a negative, just a fact! The green thing at the bottom center below looked like an underwater praying mantis. There were enough snails and mollusks on the walls that Rhonda and Becky talked about picking them off for a seafood dinner.

Most of the canal is restricted to 10 kilometers/hour (6 MPH) because of the homes and boats lining the canal, kids swimming, etc.  This one had an interesting drive down to the water.

This home definitely had the most flowers of any others.

Speaking of flowers, they are everywhere, and in beautiful brilliant colors.

Some stretches of the canal are undeveloped while other stretches have rolling hills with farmland and barns/silos.

Frankford was a neat stop.  We docked at the lock wall just outside of town.  In this area, the canal sits at a higher elevation than the Trent River which runs below.  Here's "Help Me Rhonda" sitting up in the canal as you look up from the lower and adjacent river level.

Here's the same shot from a bridge over the canal itself.  As you can see, this is a very popular stop just as you come through the lock at Frankford. 

We also loved the stop at Campbellford.  The waterfront is really nice and we were happy to see our Erie Canal Lock #11 friends again, Galen and Becky aboard "Mooring Dove."

Campbellford has a concert in the park every Wednesday evening.  It was country music this week and lots of locals turned out.

Galen and Becky took advantage of the dance floor as did many others.

Galen and Becky traveled with us today and will be joining us at Peterborough this weekend also.  This evening we are in Hastings at a local marina and had an outstanding dinner at Banjo's Grill.  Banjo's looks like a little hamburger joint in the picture, but the food was outstanding - salmon, ribs, schnitzel, baked potatoes, and veggies for us.

I already put this on Facebook, but we are seeing numerous black squirrels, which we've never seen before - very interesting and a little bit creepy looking at them.  Our older son Adam reminded me that Tolkien was writing about black squirrels as early as 1937.  I reminded him that I don't read "Tolkien" as recently as 2013 - but I've got a good book this evening by a very accomplished author, Larry The Cable Guy.  It's an interesting read if you get (git) a chance - called "Git-R-Done."

And in the spirit of "Git-R-Done" I need to "Git-This-Done" and get ready for tomorrow - 39 miles but only one lock to Peterborough.  Should be a great day.  Later.

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