Day 57, June 20, 2012: Today, we are poised to enter the step of eight locks up to Ottawa and the Rideau Canal. Getting here was almost all of the fun. We are overnighting in a magnificent marina at Casino Lac Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec.
The trip up the Ottawa River was equally magnificent. We had three splendid weather days. Monday was a day of waiting in hot and humid conditions (but we had AC) and watching as we made our way through two locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Here, we are passing the Sloman Dispatcher only to await her locking up at the first lock. And then we awaited Arneborg to inch her way out of the lock.
Yesterday gave us partly sunny, windless and flat calm conditions. Today it was hot and sunny and windless. The seaway was painful. We waited for slow moving seagoing freighters to inch—I did say inch—their way in and out of the locks. Pleasure craft are at the mercy of the lock operators and commercial vessels. At the first, St. Lambert, lock we waited an hour for the lock master to cycle the lock up and down before we could get in and in the second, cote St. Catherine, lock we waited more than two hours to lock through. Our friends tell us we were lucky for they waited four hours. By the time we locked up to Lac St. Louis it was 15:00 and your captain was ready to cut out paper dolls. Lac St. Louis is my old stomping ground having boated there as a youngster every day during summer vacation in our venerable Peterborough wood skiff and 10-horsepower outboard. The channel through rocky shoals is narrow but well marked as we zigzag out of the seaway toward the Ottawa River and Lac des Deux Montagnes.
The lock personnel at Cote St. Catherine were testy. There is a pecking order for pleasure boats entering the locks of the seaway—from big to little—ande don’t forget it. We were measured at 48 feet overall. I got a reaming from the lockmaster for preceding a 44-foot two-storey Carver. Okay! It looked bigger in height but we were definitely longer and heavier. Two out of three ain’t bad. Right! No, wrong. As I pointed out to the lockmaster our measurements he proceeded to tell me in his best patois that we were not as tall. True but the instructions clearly say, big to little, an argument with no victor. I gave the lockmaster my 25-dollar ticket and went back to the helm to lick my wounds and promptly kissed the slimy wall of the lock.
Because of the seaway we missed the last Parks Canada locking at St. Anne-de-Bellevue and reconciled ourselves to spending the night at the town dock. All was not lost as Joe’s sister and brother-in-law joined us on the trip up and our cousins met us for early supper at a quai-side bistro.
The town dock was adequate were it not for the trains going over the bridge every half hour. Yes, Canada runs on rails and the schedules are precise. The noise wasn’t so bad. It was the rumble of the concrete dock that got to me. First lock up was at 09:00 and we were at the gate awaiting the green light at 08:45. The Parks Canada locks are a pleasure by comparison. Many like the St. Anne-de-Bellevue lock and the one above it have floating docks, relieving us of the need to manipulate lines as the boat rises or falls. We turned off the engines, chatted up the lock personnel, took pictures and videos of the experience.
The next Parks Canada lock at Carillon is marvel of modern engineering—66 feet in one stage—or about a half hour to load and fill the tub, 22 million gallons. We may even have got our picture on the Marina Quebec website.
Last night’s stop was at the upscale Chateau Montebello, purported to be the world’s largest log cabin, with an adequate marina and services. The fare was a little high for the scale of the marina at $3.33 per foot plus taxes (about 15 percent) but it gave us the run of the property’s heated pools, saunas, and spas of which we took full advantage—and a nice supper in the restaurant. On the way up waveriders took advantage of our surf. We caught one of several pounding through our four-foot wake raised on purpose for their enjoyment and a little hamming for the camera.
Getting into Casino Lac Leamy is not for the faint of heart and had I known of the difficulty negotiating the entrance—which reminded me of the one-way bridges in Scotland with the stop and go lights—I might have reconsidered swinging on a hook, tonight. After a very scenic pleasant three-hour ride from Montebello we turn into the Gatineau River opposite Ottawa and get cut off by a water skier. It would not have been so bad had he not fallen in front of a ferry boat coming downriver and swung into our path less than a boat length in front for not having let go of the tow line. Full speed reverse and serious redecorating of the cabin. As if not to be outdone, he got up and came at us for another pass all caught on video and again dumps in front of us just as we are going under a low bridge. Well—stupid is as stupid does! Fortunately, the canal to Lac Leamy is less than half a mile up the Gatineau. Lac Leamy, I discover is an old and vast granite quarry hewn from gray Canadian Shield rock. The Casino developers must have blasted their way to the Gatineau to provide a harbor. Fifteen years ago, they may not have anticipated beamy pleasure craft. The first channel narrows to about 25 feet with shear rock walls and warning from the gatekeepers who operate the traffic light to stay close to the green marks. I saw minimum depth under keel of 3.5 feet and coasted through the first choke point. Across the first quarry the channel is straight but also very shallow but it opens into a lake-sized body of water with the marina at one end. Not surprisingly we are the only boat in the marina immediately next to the casino. The photo above shows the narrow channel to the right of center.