Days 61-63, June 27-29, 2012: After Smith Falls the Rideau Canal region changes radically from rolling farmland to heavily wooded mountainous terrain. The terrain is the southern edge of the Canadian Shield, a gigantic granite escarpment that covers much of eastern Canada from northern Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. The Thousand Islands form the southeastern extremity. So it is that the Rideau Canal was dug out of the granite by pick and shovel 180 years ago. The stretch from Ottawa to Smith Falls was created by damming parts of the Rideau River and digging out channels through the granite to link the segments. The engineering feat was that many of the locks were built before the dams. Then the dams were built to flood the locks. Some of the channels we came through today were at times no more than 40 feet wide between shear rock walls. The water is crystal clear and I felt as though I could reach down and touch the rock.
On the 27th we locked through from Smith Falls to Big Rideau and Upper Rideau Lakes. Both lakes are dotted with small islands, many privately owned, and covered by a single house—true isolation! These little islands are the peaks of mountains on the edges of flooded valleys upon which we were travelling. We pulled into Colonel By Island around midday, unsure of our final destination for the day. The island was a provincial park but it has not been maintained. There are walking trails and a small dock with some electricity. We found some other boats tied to the dock, people we had met along the way. We met Paul and Janet and friends, Craig and Barb, in Blue Heron showed up, too. The wind was quite brisk from the west and, as the small dock was exposed to the west, we decided to shove off after a swim and lunch.
We picked Westport Village off of the main channel. This stop turned out to be a jewel on the Rideau. The town is little more than two blocks square with all the necessities—good provisioning, a better-than-average restaurant, coffee shops, ice cream parlor, and a bank. For a population of 800 there are many churches all quite venerable. The town harbor has good tie-ups, power, and good water and is spotlessly clean. The image on the right is the 100-dollar bridge, a source of great debate amongst the town elders, I am told. One wise person allowed that if the bridge was built from the marina to the road (The marina is on an island 150 meters long by 20 wide.) every pair of feet will spend 100 dollars in the town. From our perspective he was right on.
The next morning Paul and Janet and the Blue Heron crew showed up and we stayed on another day in Westport. That night we all had dinner at The Cove and listened to jazz until after 23:00. Here we are before our soiree having wine andhors d’oeuvres in the marina’s little island park.
The 29th dawned clear and warm with 25 knots out of the west making locking a bit dicey. More narrow rocky channels not for the faint of heart linking crystal clear lakes. We are locking down now from Newboro to Kingston. Because of Canada Day on July 1st we are holding back at Jones Falls. At left we are waiting for other boats to tie up in the last of a 4-step lock above Jones Falls. The image at the left shows how we tie up to the lock. The white blocks on the apron are clamps holding 1-inch rubber-clad cables that are attached to the bottom of the lock. Upon entering the lock Edie’s task is to snag a cable near the front of the lock and loop it with a piece of thin mooring line. Once she has it I double-time to the stern and do the same. The stern is pulled tight to the wall against our fenders and we use the bow line and the shape of the boat to keep us from floating into the center of the lock. All that works quite well until the lockmaster must overfill the lock as the above image shows. The chine is above the apron and we are obliged the float the fenders underneath it. Most of the time that works with little effort unless the wind is up. Now, I understand the need for hard rubber rubrail because that gets chewed up instead of fiberglass.
Jones Falls is a wide spot on the road to Kingston but the park around the 4-step lock is interesting. The old forge caught my attention. There is a blacksmith operating the forge and he obliged me with a running commentary of his current project.