August 7 – 10, 2019 The Big Chute — It’s a Disney Ride!

On the 7th we headed towards The Big Chute.  A little background – first there was Little Chute.  This railway was originally built because there was a shortage of concrete to build a lock at this location.  Later, Big Chute was built “to prevent lamprey – a parasitic eel-like fish with a jawless, sucking mouth – from attaching itself to other fish thus damaging the fisheries in Lake Simcoe.”  The way it works is that there is a twin rail track that goes up from the water, across a road, and down the “chute” on the other side. Boats are put on a carrier and transported on this rail system.  We rode in the boat as this was being done.  Oh, I should add that in this “ride,” there were also 2 center console speed boats and 4 jet skis.  Two of the jet skis were on either side of our bow.  We couldn’t even see them.  We all traveled together in the carrier.  Quite a ride!

After the “ride,” we tied up to a dock below the Big Chute and enjoyed some swimming and relaxing fun.  Andrea and Ken from Half Time were with us and we had a great time – which means ice cream was involved!  We went to the top of the lock to visit with friends on Southern Cross.  They had been so kind to take a video of our ride thru the Big Chute.

On the 8th, we traveled thru some beautiful scenery as we traveled to the end of our journey on the Trent-Severn.  To enjoy the last of our days on this waterway, we stayed at a resort marina – Rawley’s.  At the marina is a hotel and we enjoyed some music and dancing in the bar, a little pampering at the spa, fun with friends, and just a relaxing few days.  At this point we had to say “goodby” to Half Time as they were not continuing the trip west. It’s hard to part with people we have traveled with for several days. This experience binds people in inexplicable ways. BUT, we always hope to meet up again — somewhere along the waterways.  

August 4 – 6, 2019 Lakes and Arts

We left the holiday happenings on Sunday when we learned that there was likely to be space at our next intended stop.  During the day we passed under a picturesque bridge called Canal Lake High Arch Bridge.  It is a perfect half circle, built in 1905 – another engineering marvel for its time.  The unofficial name is the Hole-in-the-Wall Bridge.

The next lock was Kirkfield Lock – another “pan” type lock like the Peterborough Lock.  The difference is, that at this point of the waterway, we have reached the high point, and will now be traveling down. That means we enter this lock from the TOP.  It’s like cruising into an infinity pool – all you see is sky ahead – no land! We felt like we were on the top chair of a stopped ferris wheel.  It was a GREAT view, but a little nerve wracking at the same time.

Our end point was the Gamebridge Lock.  Space was available because there was nothing else there but the lock! Four boats tied there and we enjoyed the quiet as well as a beautiful evening while we enjoyed “docktails” at 5 o’clock!   

Weather was great the next day for a crossing of Lake Simcoe.  Among the MANY things we are learning on this trip is that when crossing a lake, you do NOT want a day of winds blowing towards you and bringing the waves with it.  It was a perfect day and after the lake we entered The Narrows, which is aptly named.  Not much room from side to side in this area.

We then passed through a couple more smaller lakes – Lake Couchiching and Sparrow Lake and ended the day in Port Orillia.  Orillia is a good size town, and we spent a couple days doing some sightseeing.  There are lots of community art projects there.  This year’s theme had to do with bicycles, and there were bikes decorated in lots of creative ways.  So fun to see!

July 30 – August 4, 2019 It’s a Canadian Holiday – Which One?

We are in the part of the Trent-Severn that is referred to as the Kawartha Lakes.  It starts with Lake Katchewanooka.  There are several lakes in this region that are connected by the canal locks.  Beautiful area.  There is also a great Kawartha ice cream that is made here.  We never underestimate the power of good ice cream. 🙂

Along the way to our next overnight stop, we pulled over at the Youngs Point Lock to see a store called the Trading Post.  It was written up in several of our Looper books with a high recommendation to see it.  Sure enough, it was fun to see.  A little bit of everything there.  It was there that we found The Executioner.  It looks like a small tennis racket.  It has a battery in it and when activated, it becomes a hand held bug zapper.  It has come in VERY handy on the boat.

Buckhorn Lock wall was our next destination.  It was getting more crowded at the locks, although at this time we didn’t know why.  When we got to Buckhorn, we were entering from the lower level and we asked the lock staff if there was room for two boats (our traveling buddy boat – Tug O’ My Heart and us) at the top.  Yes, right then there was.  We exited the lock and saw the space about 75 yards ahead.  Before we could get there, two canoes came around the bend towards us.  We heard the lockmaster over the loud speaker tell them to move right and hold – right into our intended space.  We moved a little bit forward and suddenly saw not two – but twelve canoes/kayaks coming towards us.  We couldn’t stop and hold because of boats behind us, so we had to move on. As we exited the lock area, we saw two Le Boats coming towards the lock.  We’ve mentioned them before – rental house boats that look like bumper cars at the carnival.  If we let them get past us, we’d probably lose all chance of getting a spot at this lock wall.  Quick decision – we radioed our friends behind us and both of us did a 180 degree turn and headed back – hoping that the canoes would have moved out by then. We reached the spot and it was empty.  Again, we both did 180 degree turns (so we’d be headed in the right direction) and started moving into the spots.  As I was swinging out a line to tie to the wall, I heard a CRUNCH!  Looked up just in time to see one of the Le Boats turning almost sideways in the lock channel and hitting first a cement wall and then some rocks.  Whew — dodged a bullet there!

Next stop – Fenelon Falls.  We got to the lock and found out there was no room at the top (where the electric power is available), so we settled for the bottom.  We tied up to the wall at the bottom with our buddy boat.  We enjoyed the sounds of the waterfall and just had to walk a bit farther to get to town.  Lots of fun. 

 We were going to move on, when we found out this was going to be a long weekend for Canadians; hence the crowded conditions at the locks.  We were curious as to the nature of the holiday. Seems that every person we asked had a different answer, or no answer at all!  The best we could conclude is that it is a Civic Holiday. Because summers are fairly short in Canada, the government wants each of the summer months to have a three day holiday for the citizens to enjoy.  Ed also believes that because it is a Civic Holiday, every Canadian with a boat believes it is their civic duty to be out on the water with that boat – or at least that’s how it seemed.  Word was that there wouldn’t be space at any of the close by locks, so we decided to stay where we were.   Fenelon Falls was celebrating the Founding of the Town, so celebrations and events were scheduled all weekend.  We found other Looper boats at the top of the wall – quite a big group of us.  Great little town.  The Visitor’s Center had a Scavenger Hunt to introduce visitors to the various attractions and stores.  Over the long weekend we enjoyed Lumber Jack contests, animal pelt exhibits, First Nations People presentations,  a reinactment of a battle from the War of 1812 and fireworks at night over the water. By the way, the Americans lost that particular battle, and we were a little afraid they might replay that battle and run us out of the lock with the canon that they were firing! We were lucky to be able to move to the top of the wall on our 3rdand 4thnight there.  The electrical hookup was welcome as the temps were rising and we could finally turn on some AC in the boat.  

The town had all kinds of fun decorations out for the special holiday. Pool noodles were used to create “flowers” on light poles. Ed fit right in with his Hawaiian print shirt. We found some unusual butterfly benches in one of the parks. This one had a quote on it that touched our hearts… “Life is a Dance, A beautiful dance, So stand up and dance, What are you waiting for, It’s all about the dance.” – Jeremy McConnell

Reconnecting with people we’ve met along the way is part of the fun of Looping. Everyone does their own thing, but there’s always a good chance of meeting again. We hadn’t seen Cathy and Steve from United 771 since we had dinner at the Culinary Institute on the Hudson River. We connected again at Fenelon Falls and enjoyed another great dinner together at an Italian restaurant in town. We call them our “fine dining” friends as we seem to go to the classier restaurants when we are together.

On subsequent visits to other towns, people would often make reference to that long weekend, and it seemed that each location was celebrating something different. Guess it really didn’t matter – the people were all just happy to have a holiday!

July 26 – 29, 2019 An Engineering Marvel

From the chocolate outlet in Campbellford, we traveled to Hastings lock and tied to the wall for the night.  Maybe we should explain “tied to the wall.”  Parks Canada operates the locks and as a boat approaches a lock, there are cement or rock walls, usually on both sides of the waterway.  One side will be painted blue at the top – referred to as the “blue wall.”  If a boat ties on that wall, it indicates to the Lock Master that the intent is to go through the lock.  When the gates open, the boat will be directed to a place in the lock. If the wall is not painted blue, a boat can tie their lines to that wall and stay for a few hours or overnight. Depending on the popularity of a lock and adjacent town, and holidays, there are some limits on how many nights a boat can stay on a wall.  A boat owner can pay for seasonal passes to go through locks and stay on walls, or payment can be made when going through a lock or tieing to a wall for the night.  Some of the lock locations have electricity available which is an additional charge.  Canada refers to the electrical hookups as “hydro” which was a little confusing at first.  We thought of “hydro” as a water hookup, but they refer to it as Hydro-electricity.  In other words, the electricity is produced by using water power.

Not much there at Hastings, but we were looking forward to our next stop in Peterborough.  Crabpots were our nemesis along the Atlantic coast, but wind has been a continuing problem for us on this trip. On this day, we were heading to the Peterborough Marina, which is located between two locks.  We had to cross a small lake at the entrance to the marina.  Wind was picking up and we contacted the marina and followed directions to our slip – or we tried. Wouldn’t you know, they were directing us to the VERY FARTHEST slip inside the marina.  As we approached, the wind caught us broadside and pinned us against a docking wall that belonged to a tour boat.  Try as we might, we couldn’t turn the boat off the wall.  A lady with the tour boat company came over and told us “you can’t stop here, the tour boat is coming back.”  Didn’t say it very nicely.  My reply – “Ma’m, we’re trying our very best to get off your wall.”  Perhaps my tone wasn’t very friendly.  About this time, Ed gets a radio call from the marina to ask if we need any help.  Duh!!  Three dock hands came running and fortunately knew how to turn a boat while holding a stern line. They got us pointed in the right direction and we got off that crabby lady’s wall!  

Headed into the right direction, but approaching what I call a “salad bar.”  There was a tremendous amount of grass growing up from the bottom.  When I say growing, I’m talking about stuff that is 4-5 feet high.  Ed hated to be running his props in the mess, and we knew we couldn’t possibly use the thrusters to turn into the slip – that green stuff would be wrapped around everything.  We got close and I threw lines out to the dock hands and said “walk it in.”  Any of you who think this is a pleasure cruise, get that idea out of your heads! We work HARD on this trip!

So we’re in the slip, right next to the sidewalk that people use to travel from a road to the adjacent park, BUT, our water and electric hookups were on the part of the dock that was behind the security gate.  The hookups were secure, but anyone could have hopped on our boat! There was a concert that night in the park with a local girl as the opening act and Tyler Shaw as the main attraction.  Yeah – we didn’t know who he was either!  Someone at the marina described him as a teenage girl heart throb.  He was actually pretty good – and yes, the young girls were all up front near the stage.  We must have been the most photographed boat in all of Peterborough that night. People kept stopping in front of it and having their picture taken. ??What’s that all about? 

Two days later we were going through the Peterborough Lock.  This is an incredible lock and one of the reasons we were so excited to be on the Trent-Severn.  Imagine two big bathtubs – one at ground level, one 65 feet up in the air. Boats enter the “bathtubs” from both the top and bottom, and gates rise behind them to secure them in the “tub.” 

An extra foot of water is added to the top tub, which causes it to lower and to force the lower “tub” to rise. When the ride is over, a front gate on the “tub” lowers and the boats drive off.  This lock opened in 1904 and is still operational, pretty much exactly like it was when built.  We can just imagine some guy in a bar, drawing on a napkin, saying “so what if we used two big tubs to move boats from down here to up there!”  It’s amazing.  

July 22 – 25, 2019 Onward to the Trent-Severn Waterway

To leave Kingston, one has to go out into Lake Ontario.  Those who are familiar with the  Great Lakes know that they each have a life of their own.  They are vast areas of water and winds can stir up some brutal waves;  hence the reason that we waited for a calm day on the water.  It was beautiful as we traveled toward Picton, intending to anchor for the night.  Funny thing about anchoring, sometimes it works like a charm and other times we wonder why the anchor can’t seem to find a hold.  

There are electronic navigation programs that we use and many good anchor spots are marked with an anchor image on the charts.  Looking at the charts, we saw two coves along the way that looked like great anchoring spots, even though there were no anchor symbols there.  So we went to each and tried several times to anchor.  We drug up huge clumps of grass each time we raised the anchor because we couldn’t get a hold. Smarter people than us purposely did NOT put an anchor symbol in those coves.  We traveled a little farther and found a MARKED anchor spot and spent a lovely evening.

The next night we stopped at Trent Port Marina, located just east of the start of the Trent-Severn Canal.  We would consider this marina to be the Ritz of marinas.  It is a city run marina, fairly new, and it is BEAUTIFUL. Great slips for docking. There is a building that houses the marina offices, a place to get ice cream and sandwich type food, a community room, a boaters’ lounge, beautiful and FREE laundry machines, and fabulous shower rooms.  After staying in Kingston at a boatyard marina, we thought we had died and gone to heaven.

While here, we celebrated Ed’s birthday by going out to dinner in town. Had a wonderful Italian meal and we dined al fresco in the beautiful Canadian weather. On the way back to the boat we came across a mural in town that was make up of pictures of all the people who live in Trent. Wonder how many hours it took to create that piece of art.

On the 25th, we started our journey on the Trent-Severn Waterway, so named because it combines the Trent and Severn Rivers with canal locks; back to going through locks. Canada Parks operates the locks and we can’t say enough about how wonderful their staff people are. They are so helpful getting boats in the locks and tied up properly.  They often call ahead to let the next lock know how many boats are headed their way so that the next lock is often opened and waiting for our entry.  They are pleasant and conversant with the boaters – great customer service!  We went through 13 locks the first day.  One – or should I say two – of the interesting ones was Ranney Falls lock which is a double lock that raises boats 48 feet. It was rather daunting when we entered at the bottom and looked up and up.   After being raised a part of the distance, the front lock doors open and we moved into the second portion of the lock which carried us the remaining distance.  

We traveled through the Cambellford lock (at mile 32) and stopped for the night on a wall. Exploring the town, we found ice cream (a MUST for Loopers), the Tooney Monument, a walking path with a suspension bridge over the waterway, and the World’s Finest Chocolate Factory outlet store! What a town!

In the park at Cambellford is a monument to the Canadian Tooney. This is the hometown of the designer of the coin. A tooney is a $2 coin. It’s easy to remember because it is TWO colors.

We came across this structure, pictured below, on our walk to the bridge. Four of us tried to guess what it was. Turns out to be a constructed habitat for birds called Chimney Swifts. The birds cannot perch, as other birds do, because they have very short legs. Instead, they cling to the walls of chimneys or tree cavities. They build nests of twigs that are glued with saliva and attached to the masonry surface inside a chimney. These man-made chimneys are built to help repopulate the Chimney Swifts which are on the Endangered Species List.

July 17 – 21, 2019 Another Visit to Kingston and a Visit to the Castles

We had planned on only a day or two at Kingston, but once again the windy weather kept us from moving.  We hung out with boat friends from Halftime and Tug O’ My Heart.  We found some more concerts to attend and an outside Movie on the Square.  We got to the grocery store and the LCBO store.  LCBO – Liquor Control Board of Ontario.  All of the liquor stores in Ontario, Canada are owned by the government and prices are the same throughout all stores.  Kind of interesting.

Days were going by and we were running out of things to do.  Friends rented a car and we decided to go to Alexandria Bay to visit Boldt Castle and Singer Castle.  To do that, we had to go thru the US/Canada border.  Canadians had told us some horrible stories of going through the border – how rude and surly the agents were.  Well, we experienced it ourselves.  We pulled up to the agent and handed over our passports.  His reply was “Windows down and sunglasses off.”  He then proceeded to ask questions in rapid succession, seemingly to try and trip us up on our answers.  Let’s just say we didn’t feel very welcome returning to our own country.

That business behind us, we headed to Alexandria Bay to take a tour boat over to Singer and Boldt Castles.  Sad to have to buy a boat ticket when we’re still paying a mortgage on a boat!  

Singer Castle is on Dark Island in the St. Lawrence Seaway.  It was built by Frederick Bourne who was the 5thPresident of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  It was owned by the Bourne family until the 1960’s and was known at that time as The Towers.  It is four stories and has 28 rooms.  Now for the interesting part – it has secret passageways throughout the house, tunnels to boat houses, and a dungeon.  Not sure what that last item was used for!  THEN we found out that people can actually stay there overnight.  There is a double suite to accommodate up to 8 people.  It includes dinner and breakfast AND guests have the run of the castle and grounds including all the secret passageways.  If we had known that, we would have gotten some other Looper couples together and stayed for a night.  Maybe NEXT time!

After Singer Castle, the tour boat took us to Heart Island, home of Boldt Castle.  Unlike Singer Castle, construction of Boldt Castle was never completed, nor lived in by the Boldt family.  George Boldt was a self-made millionaire, working his way up from a hotel kitchen worker to the proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  He and his wife Louise brought many new practices to the hotel business (like providing sheets!) that forever changed the way hotels operate.  From Wikipedia:

He built Boldt Castle on an island in the Thousand Islands area of New York State.  The enormous castle was intended as a gift for his wife, but when she died suddenly in 1904, construction was halted.

Louise died in January.  The completed home was to have been presented to her on Valentine’s Day.  George Boldt never returned to Heart Island. The castle was vandalized over many years, but is now owned by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and had been restored according to the original plans.  The completion of the Castle continues.  It is an incredibly beautiful “home” and it is a monument to the deep love that George had for Louise.  There are heart designs incorporated into numerous design elements throughout the castle.  There is a Boldt Castle app which you can download for a tour of the castle.

Returning to Canada, we waiting for over an hour to get through the Customs Station.  There were multiple gates open, but there was a long line of cars in each.  The best we can figure is that there are a lot of Canadians who spend the weekend in the States!  Unlike our entry to US, our re-entry to Canada was businesslike, but very cordial.

Checked the weather when we got back to the boat – good to go for tomorrow!

July 10 – 16, A Return to the Rideau

What goes up, must come down.  We had made our way to Ottawa, via the Rideau, and we could have made a mini-loop by continuing to Montreal and then into the St Lawrence Seaway and into the Thousand Islands, but perhaps that will be saved for another trip.  Instead we planned to return on the Rideau and stop at locks we had bypassed along the way.  Such a plan didn’t happen.  We stopped at many of the same locks, just because that’s how the days happened, but we were able to do more exploring.  So here is a look at some of the Rideau locks.

Black Rapids– This lock is off a roadway, some houses about a half mile away, but not close to anything else except a bike path. Many “land people” go there for picnics, and boaters enjoy the breezes in the shade.  It’s the kind of place that people congregate to talk because there isn’t much else to do.  Here we met some girls who were kayaking.  Two were friends from Florida (1 originally from Canada) and the other was on her own.  They all had tents and were kayaking the entire Rideau, but only one direction.  They wanted a tour of the boat, which we were glad to give, and they were grateful for the additional offer of some cold libation.  These were tough ladies.  We had seen them along the canal, and were often surprised at how quickly they caught up to our location.  It was also here that we met the mother of the computer technician for the light show in Ottawa.  She frequently bikes to the lock to have “a bit of company.”  We guessed she is in her late 70’s or early 80’s – still going strong.

Merrickville– a charming little town that is a tourist favorite.  In the warm months, the flowers are abundant outside the stores and restaurants.  There was limited space available when we arrived, so we were tied to a wall that was parallel to a street.  A storm blew in – literally – and the wind and waves hit us broadside on the boat.  We half expected to be ON the road if the storm had lasted much longer!

Hurst Marina– Not a lock, but a necessary stopover for us to get water and to do laundry.  We look outside the boat, and here comes another Meridian, the same model as ours, but a different year.   We go to meet the people and it turns out they are from Isle of Palms, very close to where we had bought our boat in Beaufort, SC.  We felt a little embarrassed when we told them where we had bought the boat, because they had gone all the way to Ottawa to buy their boat.  They were taking it back home!

Smiths Falls– Yes, that is spelled correctly. Several years ago, Canada dropped the apostrophes from City/town names.  Lots going on there over the weekend.  We ate at a restaurant called “My Place,”a little European type café with wonderful food, cooked to order. Can’t be in a hurry – it’s a dining experience.  The Heritage House Museum is a historic house depicting the upper middle class life of the Bates Family.  In addition to the household furnishings, there are other exhibits such as the RCA  exhibit.  RCA vinyl records were once produced in Smiths Falls.  Of special note:  the front and back of the house are identical, as it was considered rude to receive guests at a “back” door.  One side of the house faced a waterway, and the other a driveway.  Guests might enter either way and the Bates did not want to offend their guests.  Additionally, the house features a 2 story privy.  Mr. Bates became very ill shortly after completing the house and he was confined to his bedroom on the 2ndfloor.  The higher privy was added for his convenience.

Tweed– a place I never imagined we’d be visiting. Located in a former Hershey Chocolate factory, Tweed grows cannabis and in October intends to start producing cannabis chocolate bars.  The tour was actually very enlightening – never knew there was so much involved with growing “wacky tobaccy.”  It’s grown under very strict supervision and only the female plants are used.  If a male plant should invade a growing room, it can ruin that entire crop.  And a female plant can “change into” a male plant, hence the strict supervision of the plants.  Who knew?!  Connoisseurs can apparently detect different fragrances of various types of cannabis, each providing a different experience for the user.

Car Show– A weekend car show caught Ed’s eye. Always interested in those classic cars.

Tour of the Town– we joined a walking tour of the town on Saturday morning.  Not only was the guide able to give us info, but several of the other participants were long time residents and we got “the inside scoop” on events that had occurred over the years.  For example, a daughter of a prominent citizen had studied medicine and also went to Europe to train as a surgeon.  Highly educated, she was not able to practice when she returned to Canada as females were not legal to be licensed.  As a joke, a neighbor in town called on her to deliver kittens from his cat.  She did so and then promptly sent him a bill for $1500.  As her brother was a lawyer, the neighbor had no choice but to “pay up.”

Library – On the town tour we learned about the grants that were offered by Andrew Carnegie to build free public libraries in Canada, US and various other countries. There are 111 of them in Ontario alone. Until this was done, libraries were usually accessed only thru a paid subscription which limited the access to mostly people of financial means. Carnegie credited much of his success to what he had learned from reading as he grew up, and he wanted this opportunity to be available to as many as possible. The early libraries were designed and built in a variety of architectural styles, but the plans were eventually standardized to a Beaux-Arts design such as the one in Smiths Falls.

Le Boat Headquarters on the Rideau – these are houseboats for rent.  The boats are big rectangles surrounded by rubber bumpers.  Think of bumper cars, but boats.  People who have no boating experience can rent these to cruise the Rideau and strike terror into everyone who sees them coming! I think they get a training video and someone takes them through the first lock and then leaves the people to fend for themselves.  We tried to avoid being in locks with them as we saw more than one mishap. 

Jones Falls– Shortly after we tied to the wall here, we looked out to the other side of the lock and saw a boat that was almost “toy like.”  Two fellas were in it and they tied to the far side of the wall.  Couldn’t resist a closer look.  The boat was about 4 ft wide and 12 feet long, made of plywood. Inside on either end was storage space filled with plastic bins.  The inside center was flat and empty except for two foam mats which folded up on either side – the sleeping accommodations!  There was room for two people to sit – one in front and one in back – a 3 horse power motor, and a small bimini over the back seat. A makeshift “sail” was onboard to use if the wind was coming behind the boat. Todd had made the boat – cost about $300.  Turns out that his canal and mooring passes for the season cost more than the boat!  He was taking his friend to Kingston, then was expecting his wife to join him, but only for a couple of days!

Davis Lock– The description for this lock is “an isolated, quiet, and beautiful setting.”  Right on all accounts.  We were surprised to find several boaters here who meet at the lock each summer to spend a few days together, enjoying each others’ company. We attempted to go for some walks, but once we left the Lock property, the bugs were swarming around us.  It was like being in an episode of Twilight Zone.

After leaving Davis Lock, it was back to Kingston for a day or two, or so we thought.

July 7 – 9, 2019 Ottawa – A Capital Place

We rounded the last bend of the Rideau and there before us was the city of Ottawa, capital of Canada.  It’s a lovely sight when boating into the city.  The old stone buildings stand high and proud.  The best part was that the canal runs through the center of the city, so there we were and there we STAYED.  Boats can tie up to the canal walls, so we were in the heart of the city.  Even had electricity! The Canadian Senate (temporarily housed in the old Railway Station) was right next to our boat.

We wasted no time. Friends on Steadfast were already there and were ready for a bike ride.  So we quickly unloaded the bikes and off we rode.  The city is VERY bike friendly and SO many people ride their bikes in Ottawa.  We rode thru part of downtown, past several embassies and stopped at Rideau Hall, home of the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Canada. The position is currently held by Julie Payette, who was previously one of Canada’s astronauts, and who flew two missions in space.  I like her official motto – PER SPEREA AD ASTRA (Through hardship to the stars). The grounds of the home are like a huge park – so beautiful.  We took a tour of the home, saw the Changing of the Guard at the entrance, then were off on our bikes – all the way to Quebec!  OK, to be honest, we rode to the Province of Quebec, which was over a bridge to the other side of the river.  The city of Quebec would have been MUCH farther. 

So what else did we see in Ottawa?

The Senate Building– the government buildings are currently undergoing MAJOR renovations to bring them up to the 21stcentury. The Senate is now in the old railway station – a beautiful interior – and right next to our boat.

The East Block– this is the building on the east side of the Parliament building.  Originally home to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Members, some of the offices have been restored to their original interiors.  Tours take people through these offices and through history.

The Royal Canadian Mint – makes collector coins, Olympic medals when events are held in Canada, as well as coins for many other countries.  We asked about free samples and the answer is always the same – “That’s on tomorrow’s tour.” Interesting Note:  The medals from the Olympic winter games held in Canada – if all assembled together – would form a picture of the Orca whale –“powerful and knowing no boundaries.”  Each medal recipient was given a drawing of the total picture with an indication of what part of the picture was on their medal.  Thus, each medal, was unique.  The same was done for the Paralympic winners.  Their picture was of a Raven – “ a supremely creative and agile transformer.”

The By Ward Market– BIG indoor/outdoor market area with fresh produce, meats, cheeses, bakeries, artisan crafts, clothing – you name it. Fabulous.  Got a flat of fresh strawberries for $8 Canadian. That’s about $5.60 US.  

The Changing of the Guard at Parliament Hill – Daily ceremony at 10 AM has two military bands, one a bagpipe band, and SO many red coats and black furry hats!

Chateau Laurier –One of the Fairmont Chateaus, it is a BEAUTIFUL hotel built in the early 1900’s as part of the Railway’s plans to give people destinations to travel to via the railway.  That being said, today the owners want to build an addition in a style of architecture that is so incongruous with the original building that it is just plain UGLY.  The people are up in arms, but the hotel seems very intent on following through with their plans.

Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral– the interior has so many statues, that it is rather overwhelming to see.  The ceiling looks like a starry night, with gold stars on a deep blue background.  There are several pillars in the church that look like they are made of marble, but are actually painted wood.  A truly awesome place.

The Stair Step Locks– there are 8 locks in Ottawa that are consecutive and form what looks like a staircase.  We were not continuing past Ottawa, so we chose not to do the locks in our boat, but boat friends were continuing, so we went along for the ride and to take pictures for them.  Ed rode with a sailboat that was being singlehanded on the trip – his assistance was much appreciated.  At the end, we disembarked, said  “au revoir”  and walked back into town.

Confederation Park– home to several sculptures and lovely walking paths.

Lord Elgin Hotel– Although not as grand as the Chateau Laurier, it is still an elegant hotel and was quite the place in its heyday.

Bakeries– I don’t think we have spoken much about the bakeries in Canada, but they have many of them and Ed hasn’t found a one that has disappointed him!  So many delicious items – but SO many calories to walk off. 

Carillon Concert– The bell tower in the Parliament Building, also called the Peace Tower, does a daily concert of music.  Lovely to walk the grounds and listen to the music, an eclectic mix – something to appeal to everyone – Beethoven to the Beatles.

The Grand Finale – the Light Show on Parliament Hill– this year entitled “Northern Lights.”  Performed at dark – 10 PM – the show is projected onto the Centre Block on Parliament Hill and the narration tells the story of the history of Canada.  Visitors fill the grass grounds in front of the building.   It’s a fabulous show and we were so glad to be there for opening night.  We would have missed something special if it had started any later in the month.  Of note:  at an earlier lock, we had met the mother of one of the computer technicians who designed the show.  He was quite surprised when Ed approached him and said “Your Mother wants to know if you are busy working here.”  This provided a quick intro to a conversation with him. He couldn’t imagine how we knew his mother!

Three days was hardly enough.  Ottawa is a beautiful city and has so much to do.  Even in winter, the city is alive.  The picture below was copied from one of the information boards.  Perhaps another trip…but not at that time of year in a boat!

July 2 – July 6, 2019 Rideau Canal – Jewel of Canada

After all the activity in Kingston, it was time to start on the Rideau Canal (pronounced ReeDoe’ or Ree’doe or Ree due’ – take your pick). Thought perhaps that would be more leisurely and relaxing.  Forget that!  On the first day the temps were in the 90’s, we traveled 26 miles and went through 11 locks.  At each of the locks, we were standing outside in the sun holding lines to keep our boat close to the walls and not colliding with other boats.  Perhaps it was the heat, or perhaps it had something to do with the fact that we weren’t impressed with the scenery on this first day, but we seriously discussed turning around and heading back to Kingston.  SO many people had told us that this was one of Canada’s jewels and was so incredibly beautiful.  What were they thinking?

That evening we received a text from our Steadfast boat friends who were a day ahead of us.  They told us that their second day was incredible and they were so excited at what they were seeing.  OK –  we’ll give it another chance.  Their description was understated.  The next day we were enchanted.  We were traveling thru walls of stone that opened onto lush greenery and sparkling water.  

At the first lock, someone told us about a fabulous hotel/lodge at the next lock that we just HAD to stop and see.  With an ice cream shop as our incentive, we stopped to see the Opinicon.  It’s been around since about 1910 and had fallen into great disrepair.  It was purchased at auction by a couple – the wife had spent many wonderful summers at the hotel as a child and she wanted her own children to have the same experience.  It only took a few million to do it, but she and her husband could afford it. They own or have significant interest in Shopify –a Canadian internet shopping company.  It truly is fabulous and the ice cream was outstanding.  Only 4 locks this day – much more manageable.

The next day was July 4th, but alas, no fireworks here in Canada.  We went thru 12 locks, but at a more leisurely pace. The entire length of the canal is 125 miles and 49 locks.  It took us 6 days to reach Ottawa, about 3 days longer than we had planned. But what’s the point of our trip if not to stop and see all the wonderful places along the way?  The canal is truly a jewel.  It is also a passage through Canadian history.

A note about this canal:  It was built after the War of 1812.  Britain was concerned that Americans would try to take over Canada by blocking supply routes in the St. Lawrence River.  The canal was built as an alternate route to supply troops and protect against invasion.  Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From A History of the Rideau Canal:

In 1826, Lieutenant Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers was assigned to design the canal and to supervise its construction. Colonel By faced a stiff challenge, to create a navigable waterway between the Ottawa River and Kingston, through what was at the time a wilderness of rough bush, swamps and rock terrain, funded by an awkward system of British parliamentary grants.

Initial construction of the Rideau Canal started with preparing the area for the Ottawa locks in the fall of 1826. Major construction on the rest of the route started in 1827. By November 1831 construction had essentially been completed with 47 masonry locks and 52 dams creating a 202 km (125 mile) waterway, one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century. Although chastised by the government for cost overruns, Colonel By had created one of North America’s best navigable waterways. The exquisite stonemasonry of the control dams and locks are admired by waterway travelers to this day.

 Almost all of the locks are hand cranked to open and close the lock doors and open sluice doors to let in or let out water. Col. By had the forethought to make the locks wide and long enough to accommodate passenger steam boats which were just coming into their heyday.  In the end, he was exonerated of charges brought against him, but in his lifetime, he was never recognized for what he had created.  He died only 4 years after the canal was completed.  

The end of the canal is in Ottawa.  Approaching the city is like boating through a park.   There are twists and turns through landscaped hillsides, beautiful trees, and flower beds scattered everywhere.  We approached Ottawa on a Sunday.  The Col. By Parkway runs alongside the canal.  On Sundays, it is closed to traffic until 1 PM and open for biking, skating, and walking.  Canadians don’t get a lot of warm weather, so they are out in full force during warm sunny days.  We traveled slowly through the approach and around the last bend, there it was…Ottawa, Canada’s capital.

June 28, 2019 – July 1, 2019 Oh Canada!

Cruised across Lake Ontario to Kingston, Ontario in Canada.  The Lake was like glass and we put the pedal to the metal (or fiberglass) and took off across the big water.  After so many slow days and “no go” days, our engines deserved a little fun! The temps seemed to drop as we got closer to Canada – or was it our imagination? Could not score the primo marina in downtown Kingston, so we settled for the boat yard marina a few blocks away. Can’t complain.  It was a holiday weekend and we were lucky to get a spot anywhere.  Got settled, then walked into town to get familiar with the city and what was happening for the weekend.   Took a Hop On, Hop Off Tour of the City to get the lay of the land and learn a little history.  Big Band Concert was scheduled for the evening – BINGO!  So we found the spot, but so did some rain.  Not to be discouraged, the group moved over to Monte’s Pub.  Worked for us!  

The next day was a wonderful Farmers’ Market on the Public Square – finally, some fresh strawberries.  We miss the strawberries and peaches and blueberries from home.  Found a few other goodies including Butter Tarts.  We’ve been to Canada numerous times, but this is the first time we have heard SO much about butter tarts.  I think it’s an Ontario thing!  Anyway, it’s like a little round tart with Pecan Pie filling minus the pecans.  What a sugar rush! Later there was Irish Music in Confederation Park and we took a tour of the city hall building.  Beautiful building and learned a lot of history from the tour guide.  For example, the mayors used to have a one year term.  There was an official kind of chain (necklace) worn around the neck for ceremonies and each mayor added a piece to the chain.  Those things got mighty heavy after awhile and a new one would have to be designed and made – starting the process all over.  

Our phone service plan was picked up by a Canadian Service once we got to Canada.  So late Saturday afternoon we were taking a little siesta and suddenly this alarm started blaring in the boat. Jumping up, we were checking the electric panel and any other possible source of the noise.  Were we sinking?  Were the bilge pumps overloaded?  Finally figured out it was our phones.  The noise was a tornado warning being sent thru the Canadian phone services in the area.  OK – we look outside and it’s sunny, blue skies, no clouds.  What the heck?  Later in the evening, some Looper friends were over for dinner and the alarm went off again.  Looked out the window and saw some nasty clouds brewing to our east. So we’re in a boat, in a marina, on the water.  Where will we go if a tornado does approach?  Our best guess was the shower stall in the marina bathroom. Fortunately, no tornado came, but the ducks in the marina were searching for shelter.

Other things we found to do:

Big outdoor arts festival.  Artists from all across Canada.  Such talent!

Walked the streets to see lots of beautiful old homes – not all extravagant, many quaint cottages that look like a fairy tale!

Saw Big Fireworks on the water.  Ed says it was in celebration of my birthday, but I suspect something else!

Ferried to Wolfe Island– another quaint little town, but has a BIG turbine farm – 86 turbines.  Also has a great bakery and ice cream store.