Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cruising up the Trent Severn Waterway – Getting you caught up on a few days.


Sorry for this long post. It has been a while since I have had any decent internet connection. I am at the time in the library of Peterborough, ON.

Several Days In Trenton
A little note of explanation is needed about the name of where we have been. The official name of the community that we stayed is Quinte West (pronounced “qwin’-ty”) which is a larger city created when four smaller communities merged back in 1998. Trenton was one of those towns and it is the largest of the four. These four communities are now referred to as “wards”. So technically we are in “Trenton Ward” of Quinte West. But everyone still refers to this whole community as Trenton. So shall I.

Our stay here in Trenton has been terrific. The town itself is very compact with all of the shore side amenities a looper needs. A grocery store, hardware store, auto parts store, a Walgreen-ish kind of store, clothing stores, restaurants and the like are all within a few blocks of the marina. Very handy. Craig and Sandy who run the marina are incredibly nice and very helpful.

Our first night here, Friday, we went to dinner at a very good Italian restaurant with Ross and Laura of The Zone and Ken and Pat of 20$Bucks. The conversation was lively with lots of anecdotes about our adventures. Afterwards we went back to Why Knot and crashed. We were pooped.

Saturday it was a tad bit rainy so we stayed in for a while. After it cleared we ventured out to the local NAPA auto parts store (still just two blocks away) and was able to buy all the filters and oil we needed to have in our supply to be able to do the next oil and filter changes. The last change out I did depleted all of our oil and non-marine filters. We have plenty of Racor fuel filters. As the day progressed more and more loopers came in to the marina. Bob and Ivie of Karma, whom we had met in Norfolk and came back together with in Sylvan Beach came cruising in. There were also the crews of another four or five boats. That evening we all had a little get together at a lovely small park adjacent to the marina.

On Sunday the first order of things was for Laura and Ross of The Zone, Craig and Barb of Blue Heron and ourselves to take a short hike up to Lock 1 to buy our transit passes and to check things out. The locks are mostly manually operated with large horizontal cranks used to open and close the gates by grabbing one of the arms and walking around in a circle, thus closing and opening the gate. Craig and I took our turn at closing a gate so that a boat could go down in the lock. The locks and the whole canal are operated by Parks Canada with lovely picnic areas on the grounds of each lock. Unlike the New York Canal System none of the Canadian lock masters use radios. When you approach a lock you pull up to a wall painted blue and they are suppose to notice you and get the lock ready for you to enter and be flooded up or down. It’s all very old fashioned.

In the evening we had another little get together at the gazebo in a park adjacent to the marina. There were new crews and new stories and it was a lovely time.

Spending time in Trenton was very nice and it is a great place to stop and rest, re-provision and to set up for the next leg of the journey, The Trent Severn Waterway.

 Looks Like a Lotta Locks

We departed from Trenton at 8:30am and headed under the Trent Severn Waterway Bridge which is the official starting point of the waterway. Lock 1 is only a bit over a mile. Our objective for the day is to reach a wall in Campbellford, ON only 30 miles away. And it was a tough 30 miles as we had to pass through 12 locks.

The waterway itself is a mix of concrete lined channels, rivers and lakes all connected by locks and dams, most of which are used to power hydroelectric stations. There were quite a few homes along the water some of them having small docks. The trees were a mix of fir, regular old leafy trees and scruffy looking low lying trees. To be frank I was a bit underwhelmed by the terrain as we had heard so many wonderful reports of how amazingly beautiful it is. Well, hopefully it will get better as we go.




The locks are bunched up with the first seven happening more or less in the first third of the route. Then there was a pause where we cruised in some rivers and connected small lakes. The last four were then again bunched up at the end. We travelled the route with a boat called Quest. We took the lead the first half of the route; they took the lead the second half.

Going through a lock can be hard work and it’s a good test of crew and boat. The Canadian system is a bit different then the US system. In the US system all of the lockmasters have radios and as you approach a lock you would hail them on channel 13 (in New York) and request an opening, similar to going through a drawbridge. In Canada they do not have radios. The use what is called the Blue Wall system. As you approach a lock and the gates are closed you pull your boat up to a concrete side wall that is painted blue. This indicates you want to lock through. It is the lockmasters job to keep their eyes on that wall and either flood or empty the lock to get you in and on your way through. During our passage yesterday we did have to pull up to the blue wall on the first two gates. Otherwise the gates were always open. As it turns out our six boats leaving Trenton were the only real traffic on the canal so the lockmasters would lock us through then call the next lock to let them know we were coming. Also unlike the American system where we could leave our engines on, with the Canadian system you must turn your engines off while in the lock. The result of this is that while we were cruising the waterway for 8 ½ hours our engine was only running 6 ½ hours. That means that we were in locks for two hours.

Most of the locks were very standard. You pull in, grab one of the vertical cables spaced every 12 feet or so, wrap a line around it and hold on while the chamber is flooded, wait for the front gate to open, start the engine, cast off and motor out. And we are still going up along here. The last two locks, number 11 and 12 were different. They are a flight meaning that the locks are connected. When you exit the lower lock you go directly into the second lock without any transit waterway in between for, in this case, a total lift of 48 feet. At this point we were the trailing boat of our tandem and I, being at the stern was able to look back at the bottom of the flight and see where we came from. It was a bit unsettling.

After getting through locks 11 and 12 we cruised a short distance into Campbellford, ON, to a long wall operated by the city. We tied up, plugged in with the help of Craig and Barb of Blue Heron and waited for the others to arrive. After we got them all tied up we all met at one of the picnic tables in the adjacent park for some cocktails and snacks.

As I have already said, locking through is hard work and all in all it was a tough day. But we all made it. There is a saying with boaters that 9:00 pm is a boater’s midnight. If that is true than we went to sleep at 10:30, meaning we were asleep at 7:30 pm. Like I said, it was a tough day.

Campbellford, ON

Campbellford is a moderate size town that spans the Trenton River. There are two marina walls on both sides of the river just south of a bridge connecting the two sides. We stayed on the west wall. Most of the others were on the east side to take advantage of 50 amp power available over there. Why Knot can operate on either 30 amp, which is available on the west side, or 50 amp, so we stayed on the west side where the washroom facilities are nearby as well as a lovely park where the giant toonie is. We were only going to stay one night but as mentioned earlier we were pretty spent after coming up from Trenton so we decided to stay a second night so we could rest up. Then we found out that if you pay for two nights you get a third night free so we again changed our float plan again to stay a third night. And as luck would have it there is a concert tonight in the small park adjoining our wall.
Motoring into Campbellford, ON

On the Mill Creek wall in Campbellford. Why Knot is at the far end of the line of vessels.

Now for something completely different: Look at this picture.


It is a giant statue of the Canadian $2 coin commonly called a “toonie”. (Canada does not have a paper one or two dollar bill, only coins) The reason it is called this is because the $1 coin has an image of a loon (the waterfowl) on it. Therefore it is called a “loonie”. The two dollar coin just by natural extension is called a “toonie”, as in “two-nie”. Get it? Well, the reason Campbellford has this monstrous toonie statue in their waterside park is because the artist that designed the image of the bear for the coin is from Campbellford. This is a point of great pride for the town and they built this very large work of art to commemorate the toonie and its artist.

You gotta see it to believe it.

On our day off yesterday we had to do a few errands. Most important of which was to get our fender situation better situated. Going through a lock is fender-intensive. While there are no marine stores in town they do have a Canadian Tire location just a few minutes from our wall. The best way to describe a Canadian Tire store is to say it’s like a mini Walmart and Home Depot rolled into one. They had everything! We were able to find a lot of things that we needed including fenders, lines as well as a bunch of kitchen / galley / salon stuff that had been on our shopping radar for some time. Things like a decent non-glass pepper grinder, kitchen containers that have a tight seal and other things like that. We had a Christmas shopping spree and we ended up having to walk the cart back to the marina, unload all of our stuff and walk the cart back to the store. It was fun.

The afternoon was a designated rest period. Lisa went back to the cabin and fell asleep for several hours. I spent much of the afternoon lazying in the park on my new foldable recliner chair and gaining a little more ground reading a biography of President Chester Arthur. Ross and Laura rode their bikes over to our side to go sightseeing and invited us to come over to the east side at 5:30 for cocktails and munchies. During the afternoon several other loopers showed up including Bob and Ivie of Karma. At around 4:00 we walked over the bridge to that side of town to go to the post office and a grocery store to pick up a few things, walked back to our boat to drop the groceries off, then back over the bridge yet again to the happy hour. Ross had some amazing stories about his international travels. It was all very entertaining. The party broke up about 7:30 so we once again trudged back over to the west side watched a little TV and went to sleep.

On our last evening in Campbellford Ross and Laura joined us at our adjacent park for a rip-roaring outdoor dance music performance. Well, when I say rip-roaring what I really mean is quite-boring. Sorry. The event was sponsored by the local Lions Club and Lionesses (that’s the ladies auxiliary) and it featured what I’m sure is a popular Ontario country western band whose line up are all very elderly gentlemen.

Let me set the scene. Quite a few people had gathered in the park all with their folding outdoor chairs all very strategically placed in the shadows of some large trees. There was not a single chair or occupant of said chairs in the sunlight. The band and the vast majority of the crowd were much older than we. The only other younger people were a few grandkids that I’m sure were dragged kicking and screaming to the event who would certainly have preferred to be left at home to play video games. The band started their concert playing a lot of standards, all at a greatly reduced tempo. (read: SLOW) A few people got up to dance on a concrete sidewalk that went across the grass in front of the bandstand. I think the perfect word to describe the scene would be “subdued”. But everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. And the four of us so much that we stayed for one set of their music, kind of looked at each other and as if by telepathy signaled that it was time to go back to our boats and hit the sack. And so we did.
Yee Haw!!!!

Our entire visit to Campbellford was a very pleasant stay. It’s a nice town with conveniences and the people were lovely. The riverfront where we were all moored was a terrific facility. And the weather was spectacular.

On Up to Hastings

There were six boats leaving on Wednesday, July 12 to get to the next stop on the route which was Hastings, ON. It was a short trip, only 21 miles with only six locks to go through. The reason for this short stop is that the next major stop, Petersborough, the home of the famous hydraulic locks, is forty miles past Hastings, and so a stopover in Hastings makes sense. We were second to cast off and traveled with the boat Jan’s Tern, crewed by Bob, Jan and their grandson Spencer. Following us was Karma and Passport, and following them was The Zone and a sailboat that was also doing the loop. As I said there were only six locks, two of them being a flight, and with our exposure to the twelve locks on the route from Trenton to Campbellford we all agreed that it was not much of a big deal.

The route was more on the Trent River than on any cut canal so there was a much more diverse landscape with wider and narrower areas. There were also more twists and turns. We both remarked that it reminded us a lot of some of the routes in Georgia and South Carolina. The weather was spectacular with calm conditions early and a bit more wind in the afternoon. Fortunately, I guess, the winds were from the west southwest and were hitting us head on and of a speed that really didn’t affect our forward speed. And as we locked through lock 18 and approached the Hastings Village Marina the wind was blowing gently directly into our faces, which for me and Why Knot made pulling into our outside leeward slip very easy. All I had to do was to aim her into the slip, the breezes kept her straight,  I gave her a little throttle and she eased right in.
Karma and Passport exiting Lock 18 into Hastings.
We were the first of our merry band of travelers to arrive at the marina so I helped Karma get tied up when they arrived. I then walked a short distance back to the lock and chatted up Ross and Laura on The Zone as they were going up the nine feet of lock 18.
The Zone in Lock 18

Ross at the helm of The Zone in lock 18

The Zone ready to exit
Our evening in Hastings was quiet. We were docked across from Karma and next to Jan’s Tern. The Zone was at the far west end of the marina. We were on the east. We also ran into Salty Dawg and Passport over on the city wall just up from the lock. Upon returning to Why Knot we just watched some TV. As I said it was a quiet time.


Peterborough, ON

It was Friday morning and we headed out about 7:00 am on further up the Trent – Severn Waterway for our destination today, Peterborough, ON. It was an unusual cruising day in that there would only be three locks to negotiate and there were all at the end in Peterborough with the very last lock being one of the icons of the waterway, The Peterborough Lift Lock. More about that later.

Our initial part of the route was an anomaly on the waterway in that it is the longest part of the waterway without a lock, about 37 miles. As we left Hastings we made our way along the Trent River westward to the mouth of Rice Lake, a long lake dotted with many islands. It was an easy transit for the most part except for a very real hazard that was about halfway across the lake and just east of our turn to head north on the Otonabee River which would take us on to Peterborough. The hazard, or hazards to be exact are a line of concrete foundations called “cribs” that are leftover from a very old deserted and destroyed railroad bridge from long ago. Obviously having big ol’ chunks of concrete across a waterway is not a good thing so great care has to be paid to make sure that you are on course to cross through one of two green-red marker gates that navigate your through large gaps in amongst the cribs. The south gap was way to our south and really isn’t part of the course through the lake. The central gap is the one to go for. At this point I would like to make a small criticism of the Canada. In the US the green and red markers and buoys are very, very bright, of a substantial size and are easy to spot at a distance. Not so the markers in Canada. Though they operate just like in the US (Red Right Returning) they are much smaller, particularly in breadth and size and are colored with darker less obvious colors. They are difficult to see, in my opinion. So, as we approached the gap we had a very difficult time spotting the markers and we were getting a bit nervous. But once we were close we did spot them and made it through the gap.

Shortly after going through the gap in the cribs we headed north on the Otonabee River. It was very wind-y and at times very narrow. It was difficult to make much headway because there were so many home docks by which, due to courtesy and Canadian law, you have to reduce speed when passing. Also there were sooooo many fisherman in the small boats all along the river, some of them right in the middle of the thing. (Sorry fisherman. You’re a pain in the neck.) After winding up and down and in and out along the river we eventually came to some civilization namely the outskirts of Peterborough. We went through locks 19 and 20 without too much incident, other than a small problem with the gates not being able to close all the way at gate 20 due to all the hydrilia and other water plants that was floating all around. With the gates not able to close tightly the lockmasters could not get adequate pressure from the upper pool to fill the lock as the water was leaking out the downside gate. They had to drop us down again and reopen and close the gates a couple of times. But we did make it onwards after a couple of tries.

After leaving lock 20 we glided along a short canal to a point where we made a slight left turn and came face to face with, as I mentioned earlier one of the icons of the waterway, the Peterborough Lift Lock. It is unlike a regular lock that you enter and ride a rising pool of water in the lock. Instead you enter a tub with gates at each end that seals the tub tight full of water and boats. There are two tubs. One is always up and the other is always down. We pulled into the left tub, tied up and waited for the ride. The tubs are mounted on huge 7 foot diameter hydraulic pistons that directly interact with each other. We went in the left tub, they added just one foot of water to the upper tub which forced it down because it was heavier than the lower tub (the boats displace their own weight in water so they are not counted in the weight thing.) which pushes down on its piston which through a close hydraulic system raises the piston and thus the lower tub. It rises 65 feet in only two minutes. And when was the marvel of engineering built? How about 1896 to 1904. Yep, it’s over 100 years old. Amazing.
The Peterborough Lift Lock

View from inside the tub looking back at where we came from

Why Knot docked for the night at the top of the lift lock

The view from our sundeck. After the crew left for the evening we had the whole place to ourselves.
One of the challenges of being a looper is that we all have to improvise in getting around these towns and cities. Sometimes we rent a car or take public transportation if available. Most of the time we walk. The challenge comes from the well-meaning locals who always say, “ Oh that grocery store (or insert any kind of local service) is only a few minutes' from here. No problem.” Sometimes they’re right but I think more often they are not. The reason is simple. They have never walked to them before because they have their cars. Of course its only a few minutes to them. Well, that’s the way it is shaking down here in Peterborough. Ed, the lockmaster at the Lift Lock, a very nice guy, assured us that the local marine store would be only a short walk away. Well, it wasn’t. It was a very long way away. But we did get there and found out that it really isn’t much of a store. But we did get a few things. And we are busting up the return walk with several stops to rest our feet.

As like right now.

With this you are now caught up on our travels. As I write this it's July 14, 2012 and we are spending a few days in Peterborough, partially by design and also of necessity. As we are tied up to a wall at the top of the lift lock in Peterborough we have to use our generator to keep our batteries juiced up and to take on some of the high voltage needs such as the air conditioning and oven / stove. It was working fine last evening and early this morning but as I attempted to start it a little bit later in the morning it would not start. I have contacted a local technician and he will either be able to come by the boat today or will meet us at our next location, Buckhorn, ON, tomorrow. We’ll see. This is not a huge challenge other than to get it fixed. If I need to recharge the batteries I can do so using the main engines.