GREAT ENCOUNTERS

Post #19 – GREAT ENCOUNTERS – Day 78: Sunday, July 20, 2014. On Board: Pat & Paul Coates, Doug & Janet Lawson, Jim & Trish Koningisor

The scenery is spectacular, and the adventure and challenge are unforgettable, but some of the best moments derive from the people we’ve encountered. After arriving back on the boat early Monday evening from our jaunt to Vermont, we cast off the lines Tuesday morning and ran to Bolsover, Ontario. We stayed at Sunset Cove Marina and looked forward to a restaurant meal, only to discover that the nearby restaurant was closed. Not to worry – the owner of the marina, a wonderful, gregarious guy named Joe, tossed us the keys to his family’s minivan to drive the 10 miles or so to the nearest town. He didn’t even know if we had a drivers license!

In the afternoon, we went for a bike ride and crossed a wooden swing bridge that we had passed through on the boat a few hours earlier. The bridge tender came out to chat, and we asked her to take a picture of us crossing the bridge on our bikes. In order to get the best picture and not be interrupted by cars, she closed the bridge gates to traffic – “ding-ding-ding-ding” – down came the gates! Cars waited while she took our picture!

Here are a couple of pictures that captured our day in Bolsover:

Biking across the bridge with the gate closed so we wouldn't be interrupted by traffic

Biking across the bridge with the gate closed so we wouldn’t be interrupted by traffic

Jennifer, our favorite bridge attendant -

Jennifer, our favorite bridge attendant –

 

Exploring a dirt road on our three hour bike ride around Bolsover

Exploring a dirt road on our three hour bike ride around Bolsover

 

There were only 4 seats in the minivan, so Janet & Trish made do

There were only 4 seats in the minivan, so Janet & Trish made do

One of the 4 seats had a car seat firmly attached.  No problem for Pat - we're goin' out!

One of the 4 seats had a car seat firmly attached. No problem for Pat – we’re goin’ out!

A dance party in the boat after dinner - OK, we had a few glasses of wine....

A dance party in the boat after dinner – OK, we had a few glasses of wine….

"I KNOW I can do this....OK, here I go...but the water will be SO cold...no, I'll be glad when I get in...OK, here I go...no, I can't do it...yes, I can...here I go...AARRGG!!!

“I KNOW I can do this….OK, here I go…but the water will be SO cold…no, I’ll be glad when I get in…OK, here I go…no, I can’t do it…yes, I can… I MUST go in – what will that cute poodle think of me if I’m too chicken to go in the water…OK, here I go…no, I can’t…AARRGG!!!

Our next potential challenge and physical barrier was crossing Lake Simcoe.  The fourth largest lake in Canada, Lake Simcoe is notorious for large waves and steep chop due to its large size, shallow depths, and windy conditions. The weather was cloudy and windy on Wednesday, so we decided to position ourselves near the entrance to the lake to try to cross it early the next morning when winds are typically lighter. We therefore ran about 20 miles and through 6 locks to a marina down a shallow, narrow creek – the kind of entrance I normally avoid at all costs. We crawled our way through, then planned an early start to get through a swing bridge and into Lake Simcoe.  A few pictures:

The shallow, narrow, winding creek to the marina, choked with weeds

The shallow, narrow, winding creek to the marina, choked with weeds

 

The canal leading to Lake Simcoe, with the last swing bridge up ahead

The canal leading to Lake Simcoe, with the last swing bridge up ahead

Dinner on the bridge - making good use of the table with the extension that my Dad built over the winter so we can have a sit-down dinner for six on the bridge

Dinner on the bridge – making good use of the table with the extension that my Dad built over the winter so we can have a sit-down dinner for six on the bridge

We successfully crossed Lake Simcoe in a moderate chop, a crossing of a bit less than two hours. Our next highlight was the Kirkfield Lift lock.  You may recall the incredible Peterborough Lift Lock from a previous blog.  Only eight lift locks were ever built in the entire world, and two of them are on the Trent Severn Waterway in Canada (the others are in Europe). Peterborough is the highest in the world (at 65 feet) and Kirkfield is the second highest in the world, at about 50 feet.  We’ve now passed the high point on the Trent Severn and are on our way down to the level of Lake Huron, so our trip on the Kirkfield lock was down.  Here are some pictures of this amazing engineering wonder from 100 or so years ago:

You may recall from the pictures of the Peterborough lock that the lift lock consists of two chambers that each connect to the canal at the upper and lower level. From the top, we drove our boat into the chamber, after which a submerged gate rises into position to separate the water in the chamber from the water in the canal.  A foot of water is added to the upper chamber and a valve is opened.  The extra weight of the upper chamber causes it to descend, while pushing the lower chamber up at the same time. A single piston about 5 feet in diameter supports the entire weight of each chamber as it rises or lowers - steel structure, water, and boats

You may recall from the pictures of the Peterborough lock that the lift lock consists of two chambers that each connect to the canal at the upper and lower levels. From the top, we drove our boat into the chamber, after which a submerged gate rises into position to separate the water in the chamber from the water in the canal. A foot of water is added to the upper chamber and a valve is opened. The extra weight of the upper chamber causes it to descend, while pushing the lower chamber up at the same time. A single piston about 5 feet in diameter supports the entire weight of each chamber as it rises or lowers – steel structure, water, boats, and all

The massive structure that is part of the lift lock

The massive structure that is part of the lift lock

 

This picture is taken from the boat after we drove into the upper chamber of the Kirkfield lock. The solid wall at the front is the gate that will submerge and allow us to drive over it when the chamber reaches the lower canal, 50 feet down.  Doug is deciding whether or not to jump rather than spend the rest of the week on the boat with us

This picture is taken from the boat after we drove into the upper chamber of the Kirkfield lock. The solid wall at the front is the gate that will submerge and allow us to drive over it when the chamber reaches the lower canal, 50 feet down. Doug is deciding whether or not to jump rather than spend the rest of the week on the boat with us

I swear, Doug, the one that got away was THIS big!

I swear, Doug, the one that got away was THIS big!

This picture is taken from the walkway at the top of the lock after we descended - the right-hand chamber is at the bottom and you can see the left-hand chamber suspended in the air on the left side of the picture. The Joint Adventure is tied to the wall at the bottom.

This picture is taken from the walkway at the top of the lock after we descended – the right-hand chamber is at the bottom and you can see the left-hand chamber suspended in the air on the left side of the picture. The Joint Adventure is tied to the wall at the bottom.

The canal at the upper level goes over the roadway - when approaching the tunnel, drivers often see a large boat above them, entering the upper chamber

The canal at the upper level goes over the roadway – when approaching the tunnel, drivers often see a large boat above them, entering the upper chamber

Thursday night we stayed at the docks of a unique restaurant that is located on an island, accessible only by boat, called The Waubic. George, the proprietor, is the friendliest guy you’ll ever meet. Now in his 70,s, he bought it about 12 years ago and refers to it as his “retirement gone awry”.  It was vacant and derelict when he bought it, serving as home to several raccoons. After nearly a year’s work, he opened the restaurant, which has now become a fixture on this end of the Trent Severn. Run by multiple members of his family, the restaurant has a unique ambiance, great food, and a happy camaraderie among the boaters and everyone involved in running the restaurant. Here are some pictures:

The Waubic, as seen from the Joint Adventure while docked out front

The Waubic, as seen from the bridge of the Joint Adventure while docked out front

The cozy inside bar/dining area at the Waubic.

The cozy inside bar/dining area at the Waubic.

We decided to have our pre-dinner  "happy hour" at the bar instead of on the boat - from left to right: Paul, Trish, Pat, Doug, Janet, Jim

We decided to have our pre-dinner “happy hour” at the bar instead of on the boat – from left to right: Paul, Trish, Pat, Doug, Janet, Jim

George, the proprietor of The Waubic.  He mentioned that he would like to bring his wife to Boston and/or to Tanglewood to see the Boston Pops - he has an open invitation to stay with us or Doug & Janet in Boston or with Pat & Paul in Stockbridge

George, the proprietor of The Waubic. He mentioned that he would like to bring his wife to Boston and/or to Tanglewood to see the Boston Pops – he has an open invitation to stay with us or Doug & Janet in Boston or with Pat & Paul in Stockbridge

Alright, the engineer in me is about to take over once more.  As amazing as the two lift locks are, on our last day on the Trent Severn, we descended the Big Chute Marine Railway – the only one of its kind in the entire world!  You may recall that the Trent Severn was built piecemeal over a 90 year period rather than as part of a master plan. However, early in the 1900’s, the only missing link was at Big Chute. Having dawdled for 90 years, suddenly completing the Waterway as quickly as possible became an urgent priority (it must have been an election year….).  Since a lock would take several years to build, the government decided to install a temporary marine railway to move boats from one water level to the other while the lock was being constructed.  The marine railway was therefore opened in 1917 among much fanfare.  Funds for the lock itself dried up following World War I, so the lock was never built.  In the meantime, the original marine railway has been upgraded several times over the years to carry bigger and heavier boats, and is today a marvel to see. In 1978, the government considered building a conventional lock to replace the marine railway rather than upgrade it (the marine railway is much more expensive to run), but decided against it because a lock would allow an invasive species – the lamprey, a species of eel – to spread.

So what is a marine railway, anyway? It is best explained with pictures:

This is the carriage that holds the boats. It is mounted on a unique track system and is moved back and forth along the tracks by steel cables.  The tracks take the carriage into the water and partially submerges it so boats can drive into the carriage

This is the carriage that holds the boats. It is mounted on a unique track system and is moved back and forth along the tracks by steel cables. The tracks take the carriage into the water and partially submerges it so boats can drive into the carriage

The carriage has been lowered into the water and a boat is being driven into it.  This sequence happens to be of a rather small boat and only one boat is in the carriage, but the carriage will accommodate boats up to 60 or 70 feet in length and can handle as many as 8 boats at a time, depending on their size

The carriage has been lowered into the water and a boat is being driven into it. This sequence happens to be of a rather small boat and only one boat is in the carriage, but the carriage will accommodate boats up to 60 or 70 feet in length and can handle as many as 8 boats at a time, depending on their size

The boat is on the carriage and the cables are pulling the carriage out of the water and up from the lake at the upper level

The boat is on the carriage and the cables are pulling the carriage out of the water and up from the lake at the upper level

The carriage is now at its highest point, and is passing over a roadway with its payload intact

The carriage is now at its highest point, and is passing over a roadway with its payload intact

The carriage has now started to descend the hill to the Severn River below

The carriage has now started to descend the hill to the Severn River below

The carriage is massive. It actually rides on two separate tracks, which you can see in the picture - the tracks change elevation relative to one another as the carriage descends over the crest and down the hill - the front wheels are on a higher track and the rear wheels are on a lower track, allowing the carriage to stay level through its journey. The relative level of the tracks is the opposite at the other end

The carriage is massive. It actually rides on two separate tracks, which you can see in the picture – the tracks change elevation relative to one another as the carriage descends over the crest and down the hill – the front wheels are on a higher track and the rear wheels are on a lower track, allowing the carriage to stay level through its journey. The relative level of the tracks is the opposite at the other end

The carriage is about to descend into the water on the lower level of the Severn River

The carriage is about to descend into the water on the lower level of the Severn River

Once the carriage is submerged at the lower level, the boat simply drives off

Once the carriage is submerged at the lower level, the boat simply drives off

Three boats entering to be lifted from the lower level, including a larger boat of about 36'

Three boats entering to be lifted from the lower level, including a larger boat of about 36′

Notice that the larger boat is suspended from cables.  Smaller boats sit in cradles built into the carriage. The Joint Adventure, since it has two hulls,  sits directly on the wooden deck of the carriage.  Notice that everyone stays on the boat and rides with it as it transits the marine railway

Notice that the larger boat is suspended from cables. Smaller boats sit in cradles built into the carriage. The Joint Adventure, since it has two hulls, sits directly on the wooden deck of the carriage. Notice that everyone stays on the boat and rides with it as it transits the marine railway

The larger boat descending into the river above

The larger boat descending into the river above

These are the cables that pull the carriage up and down.  There are four separate redundant cables, each one of which is sized to support the entire weight of the carriage, fully loaded.

These are the cables that pull the carriage up and down. There are four separate redundant cables, each one of which is sized to support the entire weight of the carriage, fully loaded.

It's difficult to capture the ride with a camera, but this was taken as we ascended from the lake at the top and over the road

It’s difficult to capture the ride with a camera, but this was taken as we ascended from the lake at the top and over the road

Descending to the river below

Descending to the river below

Apparently the first man to run the original Big Chute railway – William “Billy” Jobe – was quite a character. If there were children among the passengers on a boat, he would ask them “Can you swim?” If they said no, he would grab them by the scruff of the neck and the seat of the pants and throw them in the water.  If the mother objected, he would say “They are your children, you don’t teach them to swim and I can’t watch them all the time.  I’ll teach them, but it will be the hard way”.

The people who ran the marine railway in the early days lived in stone houses with no plumbing and no heating system. They were on duty 24/7 from the time the canal opened around April until it closed in November.

OK – back to the rest of the trip.  This end of the Trent Severn is incredibly beautiful, with picturesque scenes of landscape, nature, and quaint cottages at virtually every turn, none of which can be truly captured by camera.  However, here are a few samples:

I could live here...

I could live here…

Or here...

Or here…

Or here...

Or here…

Or here...

Or here…

Or here...

Or here…

Or even here!

Or even here!

An arch bridge to test our attention

An arch bridge entering one of the many lakes that form a part of the Trent Severn Waterway

Trish with a steady hand on the helm

Trish with a steady hand on the helm

Doug & Janet watching the world go by as we mosey through the channel

Doug & Janet watching the world go by as we mosey through the channel

I hope SOMEBODY is driving this boat! From left to right - Trish, Pat, Janet, Jim

I hope SOMEBODY is driving this boat! From left to right – Trish, Pat, Janet, Jim

So on Friday after descending the Big Chute Marine Railway, we went through the final lock on the Trent Severn Waterway at Port Severn and entered Lake Huron – another major milestone!  We will transit Lake Huron through the Georgian Bay section of the lake, otherwise known as the 30,000 Islands.  More on that later. We went 5 miles into the bay to Midland, where we stayed through Sunday morning to change crews. Sadly, Doug & Janet had to leave us to go back to real life, but happily, Dave & Joan joined us for the next leg through Georgian Bay.  However, before parting, we had one last night with Doug & Janet.  After dinner, we went dancing to a rather loud rock band who referred to us throughout the evening as “the Americans”. Doug managed to drag several other innocent patrons onto the dance floor, including one gentleman (who turned out to be the father of one of the band members) who, after being spurned by Janet, Trish, & Pat, took a liking to Doug – he and Doug became best buddies. Preserved for posterity:

Doug and his new friend Bill - made for each other.   We made sure Bill didn't know where our boat was docked.

Doug and his new friend Bill – made for each other. We made sure Bill didn’t know where our boat was docked.

Tomorrow (Sunday) morning we cast off the lines again and start to pick our way through the 30,000 Islands of Georgian Bay.

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8 thoughts on “GREAT ENCOUNTERS

  1. Judy McGrath says:

    Jim – I think your itinerary was based on what engineering marvels you could experience! Thanks for sharing and look forward to the next posting! ~Judy

  2. Bob Wadlow says:

    Thank you for your delightful and informative tour. I feel sometimes I am crewing right along. Question I have for you is: Are you planning on going through downtown Chicago when your reach that stage in the journey? Not sure what your air draft is with the bimini down. I cannot wait till you reach my town during your voyage (St. Charles Missouri at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers).
    May you continue to have a fun and safe voyage. Bob

  3. Janet says:

    As I have said before I have my best vacations with you guys. I know now we can dance to anything. After Mecca and a so called restful vacation on the boat. …I’m needed a week to recover. .Thanks again to all, for a wonderful adventure, Doug and I will be talking about this one for a while.
    We had a BLAST!
    Love the Lawson. x

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    • Eric Gauthier says:

      Jim, that previous post from Kristina is blog spam, and can be deleted. They are just trying to generate google search and web traffic to their site. They are popping up on many blogs.

      Keep the great stories coming.

  5. Jennifer Litton says:

    Hello Captain Jim, and Greetings from Bolsover, Ontario, Canada!
    It’s Jennifer here, from the Bolsover Bridge! I just found your Log on the Internet and must tell you that I am very flattered by your comments. Thank you so very much, it was my pleasure! So glad to hear that you enjoyed your time with us up here in Canada and on the historic Trent-Severn Waterway.

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