OTTAWA!! (Fri., June 6 – Day 36)
Hull, Quebec, actually – directly across the river from Ottawa. We’ll cross the river today and go up the 8 flight locks and tie up to the canal wall in the center of downtown Ottawa.
We left Montreal early Monday morning to resume our transit up the St. Lawrence River and through 23 miles of canal and locks that were constructed to convert the St. Lawrence River into the St. Lawrence Seaway. Begun in 1954 and completed in 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway is still regarded today as one of the most challenging and awe-inspiring engineering projects in history. Related hydro-electric generating projects added to the complexity. Not only did it require innovative engineering and massive construction, it required unprecedented cooperation between the US and Canadian governments, which had to agree on who constructed and paid for what, who got jobs, how each cost would be split, and how Seaway and electricity revenue would be split (would Congress be able to agree on that internally today, not to mention coming to an agreement with another government?) In any case, the total cost in 1950’s dollars was $470 million, of which Canada paid around 70%. As part of the Seaway and related power projects, nearly 100 square miles of land were flooded, including entire villages – 6500 people were resettled and 550 homes were moved to new locations!
When I was about 10 years old, my Dad and Mom took us on a family vacation by car to the Adirondack Mountains, including a couple of days stop at the 2 U.S. locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway at Massena, NY (I wonder who planned that part of the vacation….). I remember watching enormous ships passing through the Eisenhower and Snell locks with total fascination – I was mesmerized. Never did I think that 53 years later (did I really admit it was 53 years?) I would piloting a boat through similar locks further down the St. Lawrence Seaway. And I’m just as mesmerized today as I was then.
Anyway, we had to wait for about 2 hours to enter the St. Lambert lock in Montreal. However, we were rewarded with the opportunity to watch a 600 foot ship crawl its way through the lock. It literally had inches on either side as it transited the lock. Here’s a picture – notice the Captain Phillips life boat at the stern of the boat:
We had only a short wait at the St. Catherine lock, then completed our run from Montreal to St. Anne de Bellevue, which is located where the Ottawa River empties into the St. Lawrence. The weather was hot and sunny and the wind calm, so it was a very pleasant passage. A few pictures:
The St. Lawrence portion of our journey has been completed – another milestone! St. Anne de Bellevue is a pleasant French village at the beginning of the Ottawa River – a lock at the mouth of the river lifts boats above the rapids. There is about a half mile of docks lining both sides of the canal which provides free dockage for visiting boaters. However, due to the very high water levels, all but about 200 feet of docks were awash. The canal is lined with restaurants and the people are very friendly. A couple of pictures:
The highlight of the run from St. Anne de Bellevue to Montebello was the amazing lock at Carillon, Quebec (humor me – I’m an engineer….however, even normal people were in awe). Traveling up-river as we were, you enter the lock be passing under an enormous overhead gate:
Inside the lock chamber is a floating dock to tie to. An enormous door in the overhead gate then lowers to enclose you and the boat at the bottom of a deep chamber. The lock is then flooded and raises the boat 7 stories. The stairway that you can see at the back of the chamber that the attendants use to get down to your boat before the lock is flooded becomes submerged as the lock fills – this stirs also serves as an escape route if a boat caught on fire or if the lock malfunctions (YIKES!):
Our next stop was Papineauville, Quebec, at Le Chateau Montebello, an enormous log mansion built by Louis Papineau in 1803. It is said to be the largest log building in the world, which I do not doubt – I could not get a camera angle that showed more than about a third of the building. Five generations of Papineau’s lived there from 1803 to 1929, at which time it was acquired by the Canadian Pacific Railroad and used as a sportsman’s club. In 1971 it was converted to a hotel, and is currently operated by the Fairmont chain. Some pictures, which do not do it justice:
Following is a picture of the Ottawa skyline taken from the Hull, Quebec side of the bridge that spans the Ottawa River and connects the two cities. We’re about to cast off and enter the next leg of our journey – the Rideau Canal. First, however, we’ll tie up and stay in downtown Ottawa for a week or so to explore the city and change crews.