Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bobcaygeon and on up to Kirkfield and Orillia

Bobcaygeon, ON is a happenin’ place! It is a popular summer holiday destination with lots of inns, motels and bed and breakfasts. It has a nice little downtown-ey kind of area with shops and restaurants. We walked there from the marina on the hottest afternoon of the year so far. The temperature was about ninety-nine degrees but there was a good breeze so it didn’t feel too terrible. We had lunch and did some shopping. As Lisa said, “I earned an afternoon of shopping.” And so we did.
Lisa and Tiffany, the super shoe gal.
Sometimes there is a surprise in these small towns. And in Bobcaygeon it’s a store named Bigley’s. It is the largest shoe store in Canada occupying five different side-by-side buildings all connected together. The young lady that took care of us, Tiffany, told us that they have 50,000 pairs of shoes there and that’s easy to believe looking at all the walls filled with every kind of shoe possible. Lisa had been needing a new pair of deck shoes for some time so that was the target. She found a great pair of Sperry Topsiders that will work well on the boat. She then told me to go ahead down the street and buy myself some ice cream while she hit the stores. I did and she did. We then went to the local Foodland grocery store for some minor provisioning and hailed a taxi to take us back to the marina. Later she had to go back into town to pick up a few more things. In the parking lot of the marina I boldly asked a woman if should give Lisa a ride to town. She seemed overjoyed at the prospect and Lisa jumped in the car for the short trip to town. The lady’s name was Lorraine and it turned out she was a pizza delivery person. She also gladly became Lisa’s personal chauffeur and drove to wherever Lisa needed to go. Lisa bought a few things and then Lorraine and her were off to deliver some pizzas all over town and eventually brought Lisa back to the marina with a pizza and very hot fried chicken wings. We meet all kinds of great people on the loop.

We cast off from the marina on Wednesday morning about 8:30 and headed up Sturgeon Lake, a long V shaped body of water that would then take us to Fenelan Falls, a town even bigger than Bobcaygeon. We locked up through Fenelan Falls and headed into another lake that would take us to the start of a stretch of the Trent Severn Waterway. On this stretch we locked up at Rosedale ON. This was a turning point of sorts on our journey through Canada. It is the last lock that we have to go UP. From that point on to Port Severn we would be locking DOWN. The elevation of Rosedale is 840 feet above sea level and it is the highest point on the entire Great Loop.

After Rosedale the real fun started and I mean that as sarcastically as I can. We traversed Balsam Lake to the mouth of a cut channel portion of the waterway. This stretch is very narrow (forty feet maybe?) and very straight. It is lined end to end with sharp slate type rocks some sticking out several feet into the channel. And it is shallow too. There were places where our sounder was only showing two and half feet deep under our keel. I kept the boat right in the middle as best I could. 

There were weeds and all kinds of water plants in the water and along the shores too. We had heard several of our friends ahead of us on their radios saying that they had fouled their props with weeds. Nasty business. Then this little slip of nothingness entered into the nastiest piece of water we had come across so far: Mitchell Lake. It is basically a marsh filled with grasses and sea weed and stumps with a narrow little sliver of a channel cut into it. It made Georgia and South Carolina look absolutely inviting. Then after Mitchell Lake the cut channel got even more narrow and rocky. I must admit I was tense. Fortunately only one other boat came from ahead of us and it was a small runabout and he passed by us easily. After a gentle turn in the rocks and canal we saw our destination for the day, the Kirkfield Lift Lock, similar to the Peterborough Lift Lock but not as tall: only forty-nine feet instead of Peterborough’s sixty-five feet. We locked down and tied up on one of its walls for the night. It’s kind of secluded and very quiet. The town of Kirkfield is over two miles away so this was a good place to settle in and rest up for our next leg.
Kirkfield Lift Lock
One thing to keep in mind is that all of the locks and swing bridges do not open for passages until 8:30 am so the next thing I’m going to say is kind of tongue-in-cheek… We shot out away from our wall in Kirkfield bright and early…8:30 am that is, and headed onward and westward. Most of it was very straight and narrow as before with a few transits along the Talbot River through some nice residential areas, but for the most part it was straight as an arrow.  We had five locks to go through before getting to the next major water feature of the waterway, Simcoe Lake.

Simcoe Lake is very, very large and we have been told that the transit of the lake needed to made under calm or very low wind conditions as higher winds were not uncommon and the waves could be hefty. That was not our situation though. The forecast called for higher winds in the early morning calming down during mid-day which is when we entered it. The winds were probably at ten knots, the water was nothing more than a moderate chop and as our route was from the southeast corner to the northeast corner (about 15 miles) it was an easy transit. But I can certainly see why people get squimish about it. As we cruised northward I would glance to the west and see that there were large portions of the shore that were out of sight over the horizon.

Orillia, ON is a medium sized town with several marinas along a narrow passage out of Simcoe Lake called, oddly enough, “The Narrows”, with more marinas past The Narrows in another lake called Lake Couchiching. We stayed at a nice marina at the end of The Narrows called Bridge Port Marina with a nice facing dock, nice amenities and a very friendly and helpful staff.

One funny thing happened shortly after we arrived there. We were tied up at a facing dock with our stern facing the channel of The Narrows. There was a tour boat that takes patrons from Simcoe Lake through The Narrows to someplace in Lake Couchiching. As it made its transit past us we could hear the Captain (or somebody) obviously looking for something to talk about saying over the p.a. system, “And look, there’s Why Knot all the way from Pompano Beach, Florida!” (That’s what it says on our transom. No, we haven’t had it changed yet.) I can see some person from that tour when they’re back at home in Saskatoon, or Winnipeg, or wherever remembering their little cruise and fondly recalling that there were two crazy people in Orillia that came all the way from Florida.

Maybe you remember this from a previous blog entry that I said that the level of picturesque-ness (?) of the early part of the transit of the Trent-Severn Waterway was very nice indeed but I had a higher expectation that wasn’t being met. Oh, there were nice parts to be sure but it wasn’t making me say “wow”. Well, the part up from Peterborough is making me go “wow”. Stoney Lake was unbelievably beautiful. The rivers and lakes are all very lovely though I must admit that I am a bit surprised how populated it all is, especially from seeing all of the waterfront properties and homes. Even the crazy-tight, rock lined canals are an engaging sight to behold. The voyage through Canada is amazing in every respect and I know that I am in for some of the most beautiful scenes when we get to Georgian Bay and the North Channel. And, as it has been throughout since we left Florida the people of Canada are wonderful. They are warm, friendly and gracious. I feel so fortunate to be here.