Well, today’s the day. Where we find out what we’re made of as navigators and boat handlers. Last night after dinner, my dad and I sat down at the chart plotter and attempted to preview what today had in store. To say that my anxiety was peaked would be an understatement. Oh, and it’s officially been six weeks since we shoved off the dock in Sturgeon Bay, WI 🙂
The locks in the Trent-Severn run on a schedule of 9am-6pm daily. We had a few projects to complete prior to heading into our first lock; so we rose just a little before 7am in order to get things done. We Took our time with breakfast and coffee and set to getting the dinghy deflated, cleaned, and the parts stored below.
After we accomplished our little to-do list, there was about a half hour to kill before queuing up for the lock. So, I took the opportunity to meander around the dam to snap some photos:
Entering our first lock was a nervous affair for me. With my dad at the helm, I was jogging about the deck making sure that, what I will refer to as our “fender program”, kept us off the lock walls and from damaging the boat. At the same time, I had to find a way to fish the rubberized lines that adorn the lock walls far enough towards the boat to slip our dock lines through to keep up away from the other side of the lock wall. Oh, and from moving forward too. I struggled with getting our dock lines attached because I couldn’t get ahold of the lock wall lines. So, seeing my struggle, one of the kind lock attendants wandered over and had me toss him up my lines; as we were at the bottom of the lock at this point.
We eventually got everything sorted and made it to the top of the lock without too much excitement. With all the water rushing into the lock, the force put on the boat kept pushing us forward into the lock wall. We bumped our lead anchor against the wall and I struggled valiantly to wrench the boat back against the influx of water. One thing is for certain. My hands will be mighty callused by the end of this waterway system from all the line handling that awaits.
Motoring out of locks can sometime be tricky. At the lower elevations of the locks, there tends to be quite a strong current that jettisons your boat forward wether you like it or not. Fortunately for us on our first lock, it was rather calm. And, my dad was able to pilot us out smoothly.
Now, the Trent Severn waterway system is undoubtedly pretty. We could tell this just as soon as we entered. However, as we’re finding with just our brief experiences thus far, to really enjoy this beautiful waterway, you need to be on a smaller boat. Really something less than 30ft with less than 4ft of draft. You can do it with a low draft big boat. But some of the areas get pretty tight with 90 degree turns and s-curves that require a great deal of maneuverability that bigger boats sometimes lack. Having to stress about depth and maneuverability really ruins a lot of the experience. It’s been the most disappointing aspect of this trip thus far.
The Port Severn lock (#45) to Big Chute is only about 8 miles. Now, Big Chute is a pretty special “lock.” In fact, it’s not really a lock at all, but a railway lift that carries your boat up and out and back down again to your next elevation. Just like in the Port Severn lock, I was able to get a great video of the system in action:
Queing up for Big Chute is really of no benefit; as the railway conductor will just call boats at will who are lined up on the blue wall based on how they will fit into the lift via the bull horn. No fenders or dock lines are necessary on the lift; for it has it’s own system of straps that can be configured to accommodate any size boat. In the video, the lock tender put the biggest boat last, so we figured that this precedent would continue. But, be it as it may, we were called up first to enter the lift. This gave us a front row view of the rise and fall. The whole contraption is just magnificent to me.
The trip from Big Chute to Severn Falls was pretty uneventful. However, there were definitely some tense moments dealing with very narrow channels and heavy currents. We were glad when we dropped the anchor and could relax. Due to the stress of navigating, we’re only planning on making the trip in 4-5 hours stints each day if we can help it. Especially during the tight and narrow stuff. If we find ourselves in relatively deeper waters consistently (15-20ft), we may push on longer to play catch up.
We dropped the hook at around 2pm and spend the rest of the afternoon de-stressing in the sun. There is a TON of boat traffic on this waterway system and at times it felt like a racetrack. All these shallow draft runs-abouts tearing around like crazy seeing who could be the next one to the upcoming bend. Whatever! One neat things did happen though amongst all the chaos. We were able to catch a seaplane taking off, which just happened to terrify some of the oncoming boat traffic in front of him:
Well, it’s almost 10pm here and I need to get to bed. We have a longer day tomorrow; as we are going to try to make Lake Simcoe which is about 25 miles away. Given an average speed of 4 knots, we’ll make it there in maybe 6 hours. Oh, and it’s supposed to rain all day. Yay! 🙂