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Great Lakes Adventure, Week 3 - Entry 5

By BeeWeems - Published August 07, 2008 - Viewed 1987 times

This week was spent on the Trent-Severn Waterway, a beautiful 244 mile windy canal system that connects rivers and lakes from Lake Ontario to the Georgian Bay on Lake Huron.   The waterway boasts 44 locks. These Canadian locks are different from the ones we encountered on the Erie Canal in subtle ways.  Most of the lock gates are manually operated. Two lock operators turn cranks to open the gates.  That being said, we were stuck at the bottom of one lock for 5 hours due to a power outage that occurred during a thunderstorm. I guess power was needed for operation of the lock in some way!


Pete giving the lock keeper a break opening the gate.

Another difference I noticed was that the lock chambers were cleaner than those on the Erie Canal System. I didn't need to wear gloves. Also, the lock operators didn't monitor the VHF radio as they did on the Erie Canal. Boats wanting to transit the locks had to pull over to the painted blue side wall and then the lock operator had a visual of the boats wanting to lock through.  The biggest difference was that this canal system was busy!  We never locked alone.  There were as many as 5 boats in the locks at the same time.  I was surprised because I assumed that Canada was less populated and that fewer people would be up here, but I was mistaken.  All along the waterway were summer cottages of every description and people were fishing  from docks and small boats, and they were swimming  in the clear warm water and water skiing and fishing and canoeing and did I mention fishing? 

There were hundreds of people and boats.  We became friends with the folks on boats that we locked through with because we would often go through 5 or 6 locks with the same group of boats.  It gave us time to chat as the water went up or down in the chamber.  That was fun!  We met up with some bigger cruising boats from the USA up in this area, but the majority of boats were local small bow riders and pocket cruisers. 

Bee Weems definitely drew attention.  People constantly asked us where she was built. Some boaters even called us on the radio to tell us how beautiful she is.  It was fun to talk with people about our adventure.  This part of the trip was much more social!!  I even made blueberry muffins for the  passengers on the 4 other boats that were stuck at the lock during the power outage.  That was one way to make friends fast!!

Because there were more boats than on the Erie Canal we also had to wait longer for the locks to open for us which meant it took longer to get from one point to another.  We had a few very long days of travel  - one day was 11 hours!  The locks open at 8:30 and close at 7pm so we had to be mindful of the time.  Sometimes we stopped for the night at the lock walls so we could get a jump on the lock the next morning, and sometimes we stayed at Marinas in a town along the way so we could do laundry, post mail, eat out, grocery shop, etc. The cost to stay at Marinas was very reasonable compared to the Marinas in the States - $1.25 per foot (length of boat) compared to $3-4 per foot!  We also anchored out a couple of times, so we had a good mix of overnight experiences.  

The Trent-Severn Waterway has 3 unusual locks that are not found elsewhere. Two of them are lift locks.  Picture two giant bathtubs side by side sitting on large rams inside cylinders that raise and lower the tubs filled with boats and water.  Crazy!!  But the craziest is the Big Chute.  This is a railway system that loads 2-4 boats and carries them out of the water and over a couple of hundred feet to the water on the other side of the rocky terrain.  Evidently when the water way was being built in the early 1900s the workers didn't have powerful enough explosives to blow up the rock so they had to portage boats a short distance over land.  Why they still do it this way when I'm sure that explosives strong enough exist now I have no idea, but it certainly is a big tourist attraction!  What a strange feeling it was to have our boat pulled out of water for the 10 minute journey across land into the waters on the other side.

The Big Chute on the Trent-Severn Waterway

Kirkfield LIft Lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway

I'm sad to see our locking experiences at a close.  We have transitted over 70 locks in three weeks! We are now entering the Great Lakes area which will be very different than the canal/river cruising!! Stay tuned!!





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Comment by nancy | Posted on Monday, August 04, 2008 at 4:47:10 PM

What an amazing trip you and Peter are on.  I love reading about your travels and all the locks.  Guess it is hurry up and wait in a lock :) of cases.  Keep having the time of your life. Nancy Schiller

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