Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Exploring Ottawa and Leaving the Rideau Waterway

Ottawa is Canada’s National Capital.  I didn’t know that until recently.  Queen Victoria named Ottawa as the capital and apparently it created quite a controversy since it was not quite the thriving town as a few other cities and was initially a trading post.  The Ottawa River played a large part in that trading business.  But now Ottawa is a beautiful and friendly city with spectacular architecture and lots of things to see.  So on Thursday 7/19 we untied at Black Rapids and made our way the short  trip of 9 miles and 4 locks.  But we had 2 obstacles that day, one was a double lock that we had to wait for and the other was a low bridge that wouldn’t raise during heavy traffic times in the morning, around lunch time and in the evening.  Because we walked the Greenbelt trail and took our time in leaving, the lock wait pushed us too late to catch the bridge opening before lunch.  So we cruised achingly slowly to time our arrival with the bridge opening.  And of course, car traffic was heavy so we waited an extra 20 mins or so for the bridge to finally raise.  That put us in Ottawa mid afternoon.

No more Rideau River, it was almost all canal travel into the city.  This is our first glimpse of the stunning Parliament building.  We felt lucky to find a spot easily along the city wall managed by Parks Canada but all of the 50 Amp pedestals were taken and the 30 Amp plugs were each spaced 20’ apart.  That is too far for our splitter and we don’t own a 30 Amp extension cord.  So we toughed it out the first night without power and did fine as the night air cooled.

The wall is next to a very busy road and local construction made for a noisy place to tie up.  But there are no marinas in the area and this is where we stayed put. Our first afternoon was hot and muggy but we walked to the flight of 8 locks to see what we will be dealing with as we leave this city.  

This view looking down made my stomach flop around on and off all weekend!  These 8 locks are all original and run manually by a small army of mostly young people.  Lots of tourists visit the locks to watch the spectacle of boats locking up or down.  Thurday, was our day to explore a bit so we went to Byward Market which is an area with outdoor and indoor stalls of prepared food, produce, pastries and lots of touristy things to buy.  It included areas where street performers entertained for tips.  We chose a tiny place that made Thai food and bought our dinner.  We made a point to be back to the boat by 5:30ish because a local guy volunteers as the harbor host and he planned to stop by on his bicycle trip home from work.  So Thurday evening we shared some wine with our new friend Daryl Banke who gave us good information about navigating the city.  Friday morning we didn’t do our usual sitting around, we got going to get a good spot to watch the 10AM Changing of the Guards in front of the Parliament.  Every time we ventured out, we also made it a point to stop at the Fairmont Château Laurier which had a lovely restroom off the grand lobby that was accessible to the public!  That also meant passing by the flight of 8 which again, made my stomach do a flip.  

Another hot day for these poor men and women in winter garb performing the ceremony for the Changing of the Guards.  Of course this is just a ritual as there are no real guards protecting the Parliament building any longer but there are plenty of police around.  This ceremony included the guards marching in with a marching band and was quite a spectacle but it was a long event.

  We stayed for the whole thing despite the heat and then made it back to the Byward Market to get Beaver Tails for a late breakfast.  They are basically fried dough with cinnamon sugar but are a specialty of the city.  And apparently even President Obama made it a point to stop at the stand to buy a Beaver Tail during a visit in 2009.  Hot and sticky, we hoofed it back to the boat and rested a bit.  Then we decided we wanted power for air conditioning so we found a marine chandlery a ways away and caught a bus to go and find a 30 Amp extension cord.  We kinda took what ever bus was at the stop and the driver said he’d get us close to the right address.  But in hindsight we should have waited for the proper bus that went a much more direct route.  It was a long bus ride with too many stops!  At least we were in air conditioning for the trip.  We bought our cord, found the right bus and were back at the boat late afternoon.  Only to find other boats had come in and plugged in to the pedestals around us and we were left with only one available.  Mission foiled for us for Friday!  

Later that evening we went back to Parliament Hill to watch Fortissimo, which is a military music performance that included the members of the Ceremonial Guard, the massed pipes and drums of the Canadian Armed Forces and the US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. It was standing room only and at times difficult to see but the music was very good.  Our pictures were poor because we were so far away from the performance. Two tired loopers then went back to the boat for more rest.  Al caught his second wind and made a third trip back to Parliament Hill to watch the light show on the Parliament building.  First Mate, me stayed in the boat and missed a major spectacle.  

Al caught a beautiful sunset over the locks on his way to Parliament Hill.   

Al really enjoyed the beautiful show of lights.  

This was the finale and very poignant to see.  

Saturday, 7/21 was Al’s day to plan as it was his 66th Birthday!  His first choice was finding breakfast at a patisserie in Byward Market. Then we walked down by the locks, crossed over the lower gate and walked across the Ottawa River via the Alexandra Bridge to Mosaiculture Gatineau. It is a collection of sculptures covered in felt wrapped potting soil with tiny plants imbedded.  These pictures tell the story of the stunning sculptures. If you tap on the pictures you can see more detail of all the plants involved.

After a couple of hours meandering around all the sculptures and enjoying popsicles made from delicious gelato (salted carmel for me and strawberry for the birthday boy) we retraced our steps across the Alexandra Bridge and snapped a picture of Parliament hill on the right and our favorite bathroom stop at Château Lauier on the left.   


We walked through a park on the way and found this statue of one of our favorite historical figures.

   Captain Al and Colonel John By would have become good friends if they lived in the same era!  By the time we got back to the boat, we were thrilled to find that boats had moved and we had two power pedestals to use and spent some time putting our new extension cord to good use.  Happy Birthday Al, electricity for air conditioning tonight, the warmest one so far! With the boat cooled off,  we were able to get the salt off via showers and clean up for a nice birthday dinner.  Per Captain’s orders, we walked back to Byward Market to find LaPointe, a fresh seafood restaurant and we both had very good fish dinners.  It was a good day for Al.  We agreed to set an alarm for Sunday to move the boat forward to the blue line early, to be ready to lock down the flight of 8 locks. I especially wanted to be first in line to guarantee a starboard tie which is the side we are most efficient at handling.  We expected to have to wait for boats locking up.  Two days prior there were 19 boats on the lower line by the opening at 9AM, waiting to lock up.  They had priority based on numbers so all 19 boats locked up, using 3 locking chambers which took about 3 hours. The 3 boats on the upper line had to wait the 3 hours before they could lock down.  This weekend started the Construction Holiday in Quebec Province when most construction stops and workers have a 2 week vacation.  We had been warned that boats would come en masse up the locks to go south on the Rideau to reach the 1000 Islands.  So we figured if Friday was so crazy, Sunday could be worse.  

So here we are, first in a line of only 2 boats.  Our new friends aboard Spray, Sheila and Bill from Castine, Maine are tied behind us.  They turned out to be the smart ones and only arrived close to the 9AM lock opening.  We got up at 7 to “beat the rush” which never happened.  Surprise, surprise, there were only 2 boats on the lower blue line and the lockmaster chose to lock us down first.  So by 9:15 they had the first lock ready for our two boats and off we went!  

With rain jackets on, we were ready!  Thanks to Spray for taking pictures of us in the locks.  

We were so relaxed in these locks, that the Captain had time to chat with Bill as we lowered down.

Sheila, has her camera ready to snap pictures of us.  

Why did I worry all weekend about this part of our trip?  The light rain kept a lot of tourists away so we had a quiet ride down!  Well we did have one mishap!  While leaving the first lock, one of our big black fenders on a relatively new and ridiculously expensive fender hanger,  jumped off the rail as it got caught on a cable on the wall.  The very accommodating lock workers refilled the first lock to float the fender up and they retrieved it with a long boat hook.  So we got both the fender and holder back with no damage and continued on down.  Added bonus, we only went down 7 locks because we glided through Lock 2 and into Lock 1.  And then we cruised on out to the Ottawa River with Spray following on our stern.  Goodbye big city and goodbye Rideau!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Much to See Along the Northern Half of the Rideau!

At this point we have been on the Rideau Canal 10 days and have cruised a bit less than half its 126 miles as we’ve gone very slowly with short days of travel.  On Saturday 7/14 we easily released our mooring ball by Colonel By Island and headed 18 miles to Smith Falls, putting us at mile 60.2.  We went through Locks 32 and 31 on our own with no stress.  This is getting easier!  The heat stayed with us but the mornings have been a bit cooler so our travels were comfortable.  We stopped above lock 29A right in the heart of the town.  Our walk around town was mixed with checking things out and hitting up the first Walmart we’ve encountered so far.  We got some groceries, some produce from a stand (delicious local corn!) and bought a replacement mat for the boat (to replace one that blew off at Brewerton and since this posting is being written late, I will add that the new mat already blew off the boat today so only stayed put for 8 days!).

The wall in Smith Falls is shady and has a nice park.  Note the boat in the foreground to the right.  It is one of the rentals through Laboat and is made with built in fenders all around (the dark areas are rubber) so nonboating renters can’t beat them up too badly in all the locks!  Clever idea!

Smith Falls is home to a great little railway museum, so after shopping, we walked over to take a tour.

Our private, no extra charge tour guide is named Jane and she had soooo much enthusiasm about the museum that she made the tour extra fun.  She was especially happy to show us this railway car created from a Cadilac that the Chief Engineer used for his personal transportation when he needed to travel on the rails.  

A little better view of this fancy working rail car.

Jane thought it would be fun for her to take our picture in the cupola of a caboose.

Al would love to “captain” this snowplow train car.  Pushing snow around was something he enjoyed in Upstate NY back in his college days. 

Jane offered that we could pay to take a short ride on this pumper car used to run workers up and down the rails, but we declined and just posed for her picture taking.  

On Sunday we took a great walk on the Rideau Heritage Path along the canal and then untied lines and headed right into lock 29A which dropped us 26’.  This lock replaced the old locks 28,29,and 30 so is automated and efficiently lowered us more than any of the other locks.  We went through this narrow cut on the way to Merrickville, a 14 mile run through 2 locks together and 2 single locks spaced fairly close, so there wasn’t much down time cruising.  We stopped and tied to the wall in Merrickville in a little embayment called the Pond which was next to the water release dam. The town was full of kitschy, expensive stores so after a quick run through, exploring the town was done!  Knowing the water was fresh, as thousands of gallons of water were rushing past the boat, we cooled off with a swim, staying close to the swim platform because of current.  

Good way to end the afternoon!  

A boat taking the space in front of us moved later in the day, so I went over to the blue line where this nice Ranger Tug was tied due to lack of space in the Pond and knocked on their boat. I met Dennis and let him know he could move to the nicer area with electrical hookups in front of our boat and that is what he and his wife, Peggy did.  So now we have new friends.  The next morning we took a walk in the heat, found breakfast at a coffee shop and used their wifi to order replacement Kidde fire extinguishers that are on recall. We are having them sent to Al’s sister, hopefully in time for her to drive them to us when she visits us in August.  A productive morning!  

Late in the morning on Monday 7/16 we untied lines and headed out to traverse 7 miles and 7 locks.  Our first lock was one of a flight of 3 and it had a swing bridge that had to be moved for us to enter and lo and behold, the bridge swung and sat on the starboard side of the lock so tying there was a challenge.  We were alone and had plenty of time, so some quick moving of fenders and lines allowed us to tie up on the port side for the first time while locking.  It just shows how comfortable we (really I) am getting, giving us flexibility in these locks!  The rest of the locking was uneventful and included some nice, cool breezes so the day was enjoyable.  We stopped below the Burritts Rapids Lock 17 and had the dock to ourselves. 

A nice swim off the stern was refreshing!  We met up again with our new friends on the Ranger Tug and had a nice dinner with them at a restaurant across the street from Burritts Rapids Lock.

The next morning we walked the Tip to Tip trail on the Burritts Falls Island and Al had a short respite sitting in a chair at the far end of the island.  What a cool place to watch the boat traffic on the Rideau! 

On our walk, we could see the Burritts Falls that we circumvented with the lock. So walk done, we simply untied from the dock and traveled an easy 18 miles with no locks to contend with and breezed into Hurst Marina to recharge batteries with their electric, catch up on laundry and use their service car to do a serious grocery restocking. Oh, and we took advantage of their swimming pool to cool off.  An added plus was seeing our friends, Peggy and Dennis, as they were preparing to drive back home to Rumson, NJ with their Ranger Tug on a trailer.
 We only have 22 miles to get to Ottawa with plenty of time ahead of us.  So rather than going the whole distance, we decided on one last stop at a lock wall and it turned out to be the best one yet!  

On the way to Black Rapids Lock 13 we passed under this unique looking bridge in Manotick. We also locked through a flight of 3 locks with a 20 some foot runabout, captained by a guy who is either not well trained or who is just too casual with his boating skills.  He entered first so should be first out.  While we hold our lines, he releases his before starting his engine and guess what, his engine failed to start.  And we were enjoying a pleasant breeze which blew him diagonally in the lock, his bow heading into ours.  He had a woman with him who fumbled badly with a boat hook, so I quickly cleated my line and fended them off with our boat hook.  He finally got a line around the lock cable to hold his boat firmly to the wall and eventually got his engine to start.  But the lockmaster was not pleased and ordered him to stay put, allowing us to gracefully exit one lock and enter the next one and smoothly tie off (so much better than the first set of 4 locks 2 weeks ago!!).  So the next 2 locks were easy as we were first in and first out.   

And soon we were tied to this fairly new, lovely wall near a sweet little park that connects to the Ottawa Greenbelt trail.  We moved along 14 more miles and are now just above Lock 13.  There is no #12 anymore so we have just 4 locks and 9 miles to get to Ottawa.  We did create a bit of a stir as Al chose to spin the boat around before we tied up, so we were facing out to leave the next day and it was a narrow and shallow area.  After much revving of engines to complete the tight turn without getting mired in the mud, we were surrounded by very muddy water and lots of torn up vegetation!  But no one seemed to care.  The nice surprise was the availability of electric hookups that were close enough so we could use 2 30Amp pedestals and have enough power for air conditioning and a second running of the washer/dryer to wash sheets.  Doesn’t take much to make us happy!  Plus we have a great trail to walk both that afternoon and again the next morning before we untied to leave.  All is good in our world.  And note that all the pictures in the last 2 blog posts portray mostly blue skies so we have enjoyed an unusual 2 weeks of no rain.  Bad for water levels but good for our traveling pleasure! 

Monday, July 23, 2018

We Love the Southern Half of the Rideau Waterway!

After leaving our anchorage in Morton Bay on Sunday 7/8, we meandered a little over a mile until we got to the wall at Jones Falls locks.  When the lock gate is closed, we have to tie up at a wall painted blue and that indicates to the lockmaster that we want to lock through.  No radio calls or lights as signals, just old fashioned ways to communicate.  We’ve been lucky with not much waiting time so far but that day we waited around 2 hours because several boats were just beginning locking down the flight of 4 consecutive locks.  Then a single boat was locked down on it’s own because they had battery problems and needed to leave the engines running through all the locks.  No other boat can be in the lock if the engines are running.  So they did a “double down” and we just sat and patiently waited.  But the bummer was that 2 more big boats joined us so our lockage up was another tight squeeze.

The lockmaster was skeptical about us all fitting together in these relatively small locks but we let him know that one of the boats was with us in the first flight of 4 and fit next to us with a foot or two to spare.  But I took advantage of his worry and suggested that, if he allowed one of his dock workers to join us and help me, then we could be more efficient and get right up to the cable next to the lock wall.  This was a new idea for him and he agreed and thus I had a helper again to reduce my stress and work load!!  Clever thinking on my part!  So this nice young man did the cable grabbing while I fed the line around it and Voila, it was much more easy!  He had a fun time as well since he had never had an opportunity to go through the locks by boat.  Win, win for all.

Adding to the mildly stressful work load in a lock is the constant audience of spectators watching and snapping pictures!  I handed out a few of our boat cards hoping someone would email a picture or two but never received any.  

On these hot days, these lock workers work hard to operate the gates and the sluices especially in the multiple lock areas.  

After making it through locks 42-39, we tied up at a wooden dock above the last lock and enjoyed walking around the 4 locks and visiting the museum created in an old lockmaster’s house. There also were the remains of a military fort that was built to protect the locks.  Those Brits were just so worried the freed, rebel Americans would mess with their canal passageway to Quebec that they spent a lot of money on protection and never ended up needing it.  So after cruising a whopping 2.6 miles and adding 4 more locks to the “done” list, we enjoyed a peaceful night and pretty sunset as the last day for me at age 63 came to an end. 


Happy Birthday to the first mate on July 9th!  We left Jones Falls and soon headed into this narrow section of the canal called the Quarters.  It was becoming another hot day but the burgee was fluttering  with the breeze.  We had 2 single locks to pass through and both were open and ready for us when we arrived.  Guess they heard about the birthday girl and made the day easy for me.  The Captain brought the boat in so smoothly both times (no other boats to contend with) that I easily caught the cable and threaded the line around with no stress or mishaps.  Our system is getting easier and more efficient.

We went through locks 38 and then this one, Chaffeys lock 39 and tied up just past the lock wall in a good location to access the Opinicon Resort.  It is located on a lovely expanse of wooded lawns with cottages and the big lodge for vacationers and is dotted with red Adirondack chairs.  So after a hot walk, I found a nice chair in the shade, close enough to the lodge to use the wifi and wrote the last blog post.  

And then the Captain and I mostly enjoyed dinner at the Opinicon.  Nice to eat out, but the food was not up to our expectations.  They made up for it with a free desert for us to split that was a sweet, cinnamon apple, baked on a flaky crust and topped with a dome of white chocolate, that was devine!   While at Chaffeys, we met a couple from Ottawa and the man spent some time pointing out all of their favorite anchorages along the Ottawa River so we are more prepared for the next part of this voyage.  

On the way to the next stop at the Westport Municipal Marina on July 10, we passed through this very narrow passageway to the Newboro lock 36.  This is the highest lock so was the last one we went up.  From this point on, we will be headed down toward sea level with the red channel markers on the port and green on the starboard. Can’t get those confused!   

We then entered Upper Rideau Lake where we saw lots of loon pairs and some with babies.  My quest for a great loon picture is not yet met. This one will have to do for now. The trip to Westport was only 11.1 miles and with one easy lockage, we were finished for the day before 11am.

So after several Parks Canada walls without power, we tucked into this marina for good wifi, water refill, many loads of laundry, some shopping and best of all, a Good hair cut for this first mate.  Al got 3 “attaboys” after parallel parking InSpeyered 2 between that boat in front and a pedestrian bridge  to our stern with only feet to spare.  Nice location though for the wifi since the tiny marina office was right next to us.  While taking the daily walk, I got a call from the main office of the lock tenders on the Rideau to warn us that the water level on the south part was dropping and expected to go several inches below the normal level of at least 5’.  Back in Kingston, I read that the lock officials want boats to register if the boat draft is over 4’ and since ours is, I called to announce we would be traveling with a nearly 5’draft.  And it paid off since the office knew to call us with that warning.  Whew, we just went through the highest lock so going down, the water levels would be more than adequate and we had nothing to worry about.   

This is a great little tourist town, so it had lots of shops with some interesting gormet food to buy and a nice loon T-shirt for me.  Al also liked the well stocked hardware store so now has screws for the swim platform that are the right length.  Plus the crockpot died about a week ago so we replaced it via the hardware store.  (We are enjoying spending American money at the “Canadian discount”.  We’ve been gettting about $1.30 Canadian for $1 American.)  The picture above is the post office and it’s interesting architecture deserved a photo.  

But this sweet treat deserved a photo even more!  The local bakery was wonderful and this is by far the best French apricot pastry eaten on this 3 year trip!  Went to the bakery twice to indulge.  On 7/12 we untied lines after walking and hitting a few stores for things not needed but wanted, we went through Upper Rideau Lake to the only lock for the day #35 and our first for locking down.  This is much easier because all we do is hand off lines to the lock workers and they wrap them around the cables and hand them back and we simply hold on.  We had a short wait and were joined by folks on a rental “Laboat” who seemed to lack boating experience. So after the lockmaster observed the boat coming up to the blue line in a poorly controlled manner, they decided to put that boat into the lock with lots of help ahead of us and for once we looked the the ones who knew what we were doing in a lock!  Experience helps!  

Lock 35 brought us to the much deeper Big Rideau Lake where we had up to 220’ of water below our keel.  Quite a change from 2-3’ on the southern section.  We caught a mooring ball next to Colonel By Island and settled in for a 2 night stay.  More loons on this lake to observe and hear mornings and nights.  The swimming was refreshing but I lasted only minutes in the less than 80 degree water!  Plus the air temps went down so the hot factor wasn’t an enticement to swim much. BTW, Colonel By was the chief engineer who supervised the making of the Rideau Canal so he is a favorite historical figure for us.  

The Captain enjoyed a day off with no chores since we did it all at the marina stop.  

We used Victory Lap to visit the tiny town of Portland which coincidentally was on the same date this year that we visited Portland, Maine last year! Another town for walking and not much else but the dingy ride past loons was well worth it.  These are the days, swinging on a mooring ball (anchor will not have to be cleaned when we leave!) on a beautiful lake are the days we love the most.