Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On to Buckhorn and Bobcaygeon

Sunday morning in Peterborough rolled around and as the sun rose we were once again alone at the top of the Lift Lock. It was very peaceful but the skies were a bit more cloudy than usual. We had had a string of spectacular weather: sunny skies, warm but not too hot temperatures and calm winds. This day was to be a bit more unsettled with the Environment Canada forecast sounding more familiar: “Clear, warm in the morning with a 30% chance of showers in the afternoon, and a risk of thunderstorms.” Well we knew what that meant. Get out and get cruising and things may come a cropper after 3:00 pm. Now it would do us no good to shove off until 8:30 am because there was a swing bridge just up from our position and the bridge tender would not be on duty until that time, just like the lockmasters and canalmen. But as the time approached we said our good-byes to the guys at the lock. (It was a kind of special goodbye because we got a very special treat Saturday evening that we can’t talk about. Let’s just say we got something that is reserved for people that truly appreciated the lift lock and that they like.)

You may remember that in recent posts I mentioned that the parts of the waterway that we had been on so far were very nice but not the spectacularly special vistas and scenes that we had been told about. There were some nice spots but much of it not being all that much more special that places we had seen so far. Well all that changed dramatically. Right out of the chute, so to speak, as soon as we passed the swing bridge we entered a short but dramatic stretch of canal that narrowed to maybe only 40 feet across, barely enough room for two boats to pass each other. Then that emptied into a pool surrounded by Trent University, a very newish campus with modern architecture. We than entered into a stretch where we had to pass through five locks in about a five or six mile stretch. We kept climbing up into the countryside until we reach a long wide lake called Clear Lake. After traversing that the terrain changed to the very appropriately named Stoney Lake. It is so hard to put this place into words. Imagine a mountain range of small rocky mountains where the peaks are all closely packed together. Then imagine this mountain range set in a bowl and this bowl is flooded with water with just the tops of the mountains sticking out of the water. Trees and vegetation on these little peaks barely clinging onto the rocks. Water surrounds everything and there are no straight lines or channels and the only way to get through these rocks and escarpments is to weave a tightly serpentine pattern through them. Now add to this scene houses and cabins (even a church) built onto these peaks where they have only awkward footholds on them. Now add dozens of boats buzzing around the place in and out of the tight but well marked channels, where outside the channels there is a real risk of crashing into rocks barely submerged below the surface. The water was clear and beautiful which as we cruised through we could see the rocky mountain sides slipping down into the pool. Well, what do you call an area like this? What do you call a navigable route through the maze of rocks and peaks and boats and markers and hazards galore? “Hell’s Gate”. But there was nothing hellish about it. It was a stunningly beautiful area. Truly breath taking.  Though Stoney Lake is behind us we do know that from that point on we must be vigilant. Submerged hiding rocks were a real threat for a long time to come.

The skies were constantly vacillating between thick grey clouds that would threaten rain and clearer more friendly skies. The winds did pick up a tad and we did have a sense of urgency about getting to Buckhorn, ON. We did not want to get stuck out in a rain or storm. We crossed more lakes separated by narrow little channels. Eventually we did reach Lock 31, our last lock of the day located in the middle of Buckhorn. Our plan was to tie up on one of the upper walls for a couple of nights. We had a technician lined up to take a look at the generator. But the waters were very busy with locals in their small boats and loads of rental houseboats. Fortunately there was literally one space left on the west upper wall that I was able to slide the boat into. The shore was busy with people and several came to help us tie up. It all went well. People started coming up to the boat and talking to us. Why Knot is a pretty boat and it attracts attention wherever we go. I think the reason for this is that it resembles an image that people have about what a boat looks like. It has a sharp raked bow with a strong fore deck, a walk around deck and superstructure in the middle. And in a way it is very approachable. There are no barriers between ship and shore save for a rail. Anyway, there were enough people chatting with us Lisa was talking to one group near the bow and I talked up another group down by the stern. And it just so happens are technician and his wife were passing by. They stopped and came on board so we talked a short while and got things lined up for him to get to work on the boat Monday morning. All is well in Buckhorn.

Fortunately when the technician arrived on board Monday morning the generator only needed a few adjustments to fix its ills. Other than that and tightening the belt to the alternator and water pump on the main engine he pronounced everything looked good in the engine compartment so we made our plans to leave Buckhorn. We took a quick walk to a nearby grocery store to pick up a few items. Then we motored off for a short nineteen mile leg to our next destination.

Bobcaygeon (pr. bob kajon) is a large town located around lock 32. It is the busiest lock on the entire waterway and is a pleasure boating hub being connected to Pigeon Lake to the south and Sturgeon Lake to the west and north. There were many boats of all shapes and sizes. Getting through the lock in the middle of town was interesting because as already mentioned it is very busy. As we exited Pigeon Lake from the south the channel into town and to the lock is narrow with quite a few homes with docks along the channel. Interestingly the homes were for the most part upscale with some of the finest homes, patios, lawns and docks that we’ve seen on the waterway. The channel was busy with lots of small boats pulling into and out of the several gas docks along the way and tied up to the long walls for picnicking or for overnight. We were the largest boat there save for a houseboat coming out of the lock ahead of us and the good ship Salty Dawg that was tied up to the upper wall for an overnight stay.  The lock walls were lined with a lot of people taking pictures and watching boats lock through. And since many of the skippers were first timers, or at least weekenders, I am sure it all made for some great entertainment. And as there were a lot of pairs of eyes on us the pressure was on to look like polished cruisers. And we did. We easily slipped on into the chamber and locked through without a hitch. I chatted with one of the lockmasters and she told me that her only job on that day was to help the inexperienced boaters anyway she could to get in and out of the lock. And as this lock was our 61st lock we had our system down pretty well by now and she complimented us on how we did.
Our marina was just about a half a mile past the lock. The weather for Tuesday, July 17, isn’t so good. The forecast calls for high winds in the range of thirty to fifty kilometers (fifteen to twenty-five knots) with the peak blow around noon. So we are going to sit Tuesday out. Centre Point Landing Marina will be our home for a couple of nights as we do laundry, catch up on some computer work and take on some provisions. Hopefully we’ll have some time to take a look around Bobcaygeon, too.