Days 60-62, June 24-26, 2012: The upper Rideau Canal region is quite varied. The canal along the southern suburbs of Ottawa is breathtaking. Parks and walkways strung together for miles including beaches on Dows Lake to the south of the city create many acres of green space. After Ottawa the landscape turns rural—small towns, farms, and big homes at canal’s edge. All the straight parts one finds houses with lots of toys—airplanes, boats, pieds-à-terre. We shared the waterway with lots of people on Sunday but on Monday everyone had gone home to work except the occasional fisherman.
The canal can be difficult to navigate. There is lots of shoaling and rocks line many a narrow channel. Some of the broad expanses of shallow water are covered with green algae. Locals say that the warm winter is the likely cause of the immense algae bloom. Other open stretches of water are choked with waterlilies.The blooms are quite spectacular–the size of dinner plates.
We had one rather exciting incident in a step-lock, numbers 14, 15, and 16. We were in the second of the three steps when a bike accident involving one of many lock gawkers distracted him. The lock overfilled threatening to float us onto the apron of the lock. We dropped all our lines and went through emergency start moving the boat away from the wall. Nine hundred horsepower in a sideways move dumped water out of the lock and the lockmaster lost his cool. He calmed down after I explained that the boat has a hard chine that would have cracked had he let it down on the apron. He regained his composure and apologized. However, he had to empty the lock again and then raise us to the proper level so that we could move into the top step. In the process we donated a fender to the lock. It probably did its job and burst against the chine and the lip of the lock while we were doing our lateral arabesque. We decided to quit after lock 17 pulled into the first available full service marina to replace lost gear.
Out of a bad thing comes good. We pulled in just as a cold front came roaring through. Cold fronts in the north country are somewhat more exciting than in our southern climate. The fronts usually come with high wind and then more wind after they pass. We had torrents of rain during the night then the next day in crisp weather alternating from squally to sunny, the wind blew 25 with gusts into the 30s. Fortunately all of the locks we have gone through to date are quite sheltered and we were able to lock through without getting blown around. We sheltered on the 25th in Merrickville above lock 23.
Merrickwille is a pleasant rural town. It was the strategic center during the building of the canal in the 19th century. The restored blockhouse overlooking the lock was intended to be a defensive structure against attacks by the Americans! A repeat of the war of 1812, which spawned the building of the canal as an alternative trade route away from the U.S. border, never happened and the blockhouse never saw service as a fortification.
Today, the 26th we are in Smith Falls, Ontario. High winds buffeted us during the short journey from Merrickville but the weather was brilliant. Victoria Park, a Smith Falls city facility, features a full service marina at low cost at a wide spot above lock 29A. The image below depicts part of Victoria Park in Smith Falls at the top of the lock. Two of our looping friends, Paddy Wagon and Blue Heron are tied alongside across the turning basin. Downtown Smith Falls on the left side of the canal as we see it is bustling with lots of gift shops, markets, and even a Wal-Mart all within walking distance.