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