7 June, 2014
Well…..got the cell phone issues ironed out in Orillia, so we bid this fair marina adieu at 0830 on the 2nd. It’s clear and 65 degrees as we toodle out into Lake Simcoe, one of the pearls strung together by the T/S waterway. Two hours across mid-lake brings us to the entrance to the Trent Canal. The guys from Parcs Canada are in the narrow, windy entrance with the barge and claw, picking up trees, roots, and such. They pull this stuff up on deck, then go to work with the chainsaws (I could so do this stuff). Had to let them know that we’ve already done a lot of work for them, chipping up flotsam with our propeller. Such is life on a Spring transit. The next few hours takes us through a straight, man-made ditch which is sometimes above the surrounding terrain. Where we parallel a road, it’s somewhat disconcerting to look down at the wheeled vehicles passing by. The guys that operate the next four locks travel ahead of us in their golf cart to get to the next lock (maybe a mile or so) and ready it for our arrival. Along the way, cows are coming down to the ditch for a sip. Canal Lake is a narrow, man-made lake which has a narrow, 6 foot deep channel down the middle of the otherwise 2 foot deep lake. The Parcs dudes haven’t been here yet, so we hit stumps and such on the bottom every couple hundred yards. What new bottom paint? Entering the canal again, we slow to a crawl. Engine temperature up, and it feels like we’re aground, although the depth gauge says 6’. Aaahhh-been there, done that. Put the Gal into reverse (kinda freaky in shallow, narrow channels), and a hunk of weeds and bottom the size of a mini Cooper floats up in front of us. Much better-de boat she don’ run so good wit’ de weeds and gunk on the prop and rudder. Weather radar shows a nasty thunderstorm on its way, we hope to make it to the top of Kirkfield (second highest lift lock in the world-highest is in a couple more days). So….we’re racing at breakneck speed (3 knots), and doing semi Crazy Ivan’s (aforementioned) to get rid of weeds every couple hundred yards and make to the lower reach of the lock a few minutes before closing time, and as it turns out, about 15 minutes before the STORM. Up we go. On the way up, The Captain decides that we will be better off pointing the opposite way, against the downbound wall to weather the storm. Lockmaster says it’s no problem; the width of the upper reach is 100 feet or so-cool. Rain starting, turn initiated, MDO calling out distances from stern. What? 4 feet from the wall?-Can’t be...the bow is only 10 feet from the wall. Long story short, tie up and the skies open. After the storm passes Yours Truly shoots the width of the channel with the rangefinder-66 feet (we’re 53 feet overall). Depart wall at Kirkfield at 0800, barometer falling, 66 degrees and drizzly. More shallow, narrow channels and weeds. At midmorning, coming out of Mitchell Lake, we announce ourselves on the VHF radio as entering the narrow waterway. 300 yards in, a sailboat with its mast lashed to the deck comes around the bend, balls out (excuse me), and immediately runs aground HARD! We stand by, ready to lend assistance, and not willing to try to get past until they get their boat floating again. Could have been avoided (Am I the only one that notices the lack of radio usage among sailboaters?). Bobcaygeon is our wall for the night. Before we leave the Girl, for our trek around town, she is assaulted by a delightful family in their rental houseboat. With 100 yards in front of her on the wall, and me there to catch their lines, the intrepid captain decides to ignore me and all modicum of common sense, and attempts to take off our bow pulpit with his cabin. Bow pulpit is still there; sure glad I brought the Milwaukee polisher and some heavy compound. She’ll be like new in a couple of hours. After our stroll, which revealed one incredible shoe store, Bigley’s (no Kidding-it’s huge!), we settled down on the back porch to watch the high jinx of other rental houseboat captains while having a sip. The 4th dawns sunny and 59 degrees. An uneventful morning of weedy travel brings us to Lovesick lock, so named because of an Indian (not PC) fable of a lovelorn brave who spent time here. The spot was recommended by a friendly couple that we chatted with in “The Bob” the day before. It’s totally inaccessible by road, so is very quiet and remote. The lock staff arrives every morning by boat, leaving every evening in the same manner. It was so pretty there that we stayed for 2 nights, getting to know Derrick, the lockmaster, and Amy, his assistant who attends college at Trent University. They suffered through all of the Admiral’s and my questions. I think that they may even have warmed up to us by the end of our stay, letting Y.T. operate the lock (under close supervision). While there, our houseboating friends who recommended this place, arrived. We spent a couple of great days with them, chattin’ it up, and learning new skills. You see, Mike and Donna are fishin’ magicians, while we just go to the hardware store and buy “pretty hooks”-most of which have years of dust on them. They imparted quite a bit of their knowledge on us, and Mike even pronounced that our tackle box and its contents were “not that bad”. We had cocktails on our back porch, and were invited to their campfire that night, joined by their son, Justin. We were sorry to leave them, but they were headed back to work, while we had to write the next paragraph in The Life. The trip to Peterborough Lock (the world’s highest lift lock) was uneventful, although shallow, narrow and weedy with multiple bottom touches and semi Crazy Ivan’s. Is there a recurring theme here? The Peterborough Lock is truly spectacular. When you pull into the upper chamber, it’s like you’re driving to the edge of the world. The Girls’ bow is 8 feet above the water, and the front gate on the lock is about 4 feet, so you’re looking 73 feet straight down to the lower reach from the bow of the boat. Google it-it’s pretty cool, and was built over 100 years ago. So we’re pullin’ out of the chamber into the lower reach and the lockmaster comes over the P.A. and announces that we could teach the other boaters a thing or two about boat handling! (Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. I could fill a small stadium with people who had witnessed some of the bonehead moves that I’ve pulled (just on the water)). Stayed at the wall, Lock 20, in Peterborough. Our bike ride took us into town for dinner at Ashburnham Ale House, thanks to Lockmaster Wendy at 20 (she really should work for the Chamber of Commerce), a storehouse of local knowledge. I really have to take a minute to tell you about the Lockmasters and assistants on the T/S Waterway. It is truly a family business, with multiple generations of families working the Locks, dams and water control systems. The Lockmasters (and Mistresses (?)) have to be the most gracious and cordial group of folks you could meet. Much of The Waterway’s charm and personality is due to these amazing characters who really take ownership in the enterprise. Anyhoo, we slept like rocks after deciding to spend a couple of days here. Our coffee stroll in the morning took us back to the Peterborough lock, where the Lockmaster, Ed, recognized us and dragged us into his office, offering us juice, hot chocolate or milk (they don’t drink coffee). Well……we had to meet Rob, the mechanic at the lock, and Ed’s childhood friend. Together, they took the Admiral and I across the upper chamber to the control tower. There, they had me bring the level up in the lower chamber and raise the upper chamber to ready them for the days’ transits-I’ve always loved to be the one pushing the buttons. Got to see some of the inner workings-Shhhh!, and an hour or so later, they had to work, and we had to go play. Back at Lock 20, Wendy let me open the manual lock gate, which involves walking around in circles around a capstan until the gate is open (something Tom Sawyeresque about this picture). Off to the farmers market for fruit and veggies, and I’m sure some more yakkin’ with the locals. We scoped out an internet coffee shop this afternoon, so will attempt to shoot this off into space from there. Later.