Lionheartcruise: Canada



We have spent the past 7 weeks cruising the Trent-Severn Waterway in Ontario, Canada, as well as the Georgian Bay and North Channel of Lake Huron.  This is beautiful country and challenging cruising waters.

June 21 was a beautiful sunny day with calm waters forecast for Lake Ontario.  We had a very smooth crossing from Oswego to The Bay of Quinte (about 50 miles) on the Canadian side of the lake.  We spent that night tied to the wall by the swing bridge at the entrance  to the Murray Canal.  We bought our Canadian Waterway Season Pass and the next day we passed through the 13 mile waterway to Trenton, Ontario, which  is the gateway to the Trent-Severn.  Trenton was hosting a major motorcycle riders weekend which proved interesting to watch and to hear.

The first Lift Lock - what a thrill!

On our way to transit the Trent-Severn

The swing bridge at the entrance to the Murray Canal

After 2 days in Trenton doing errands like haircuts, shopping and internet, we embarked upon our trip through the Trent-Severn which is a 240 mile waterway connecting Trenton on Lake Ontario with Port Severn on the Georgian Bay.  There are 44 locks that raise you from 243 feet above sea level at Trenton to a high point of 840 feet above sea level, and then lowers you back down to Port Severn which is 576 above sea level.  On June 24 we "locked through" 12 locks, and tied to the town wall in Campbellford.  Many of the towns along the canal sections of the waterway offer town wall or town dock tie ups for the pleasure boaters who travel up and down the waterway in the summer in all manner of water crafts.  Lionheart was among the largest vessels on the waterway, so we often found ourselves locking with 3 or 4 runabouts and occasionally a houseboat (shudder!).  I shudder because most houseboat drivers are very inexperienced and can cause great consternation, if not damage, to the rest of the boats in the lock.  Campbellford proved to be a lovely little town with a nice bike path and a regional park to pedal around and view the river and falls that made the lock necessary at that spot on the waterway.

Up in the air in the lift lock

Regular, manpower driven lock  on T-S

On June 26 we stopped at the town wall in Hastings and learned that our first granddaughter, Jillian Van Gemert, had been born that day, making that a date to remember!  Welcome baby girl, and congratulations Dennis and Wendy!  June 27 and 28 found us in Peterborough at the town docks in rainy weather.  The Captain spent the day riding his bike all over town trying to find a battery for our digital camera which had been dying since we left Trenton.  He found the only one to be had in western Canada right there and we were back in business.  The other highlight of Peterborough was the Wednesday night concert in the park right next to the dock.  We saw John McDermott, one of the Irish Tenors, perform a wonderful program that ended with fireworks and a gigantic thunderstorm.  8000 people left in a big hurry to avoid being drowned in the rain!  Fortunately, we were just steps away from Lionheart.  The next day we encountered the first Lift Lock on the T-S.  41 of the locks are just your garden variety locks, like the Erie Canal, only they all have really nice cables to tie onto.  We had also acquired headsets that enabled the Captain to give me instructions without screaming or using hand signals.  So we were very cool locking through the locks up to Lock 21 which is a Lift Lock.  It is an engineering marvel which was built in 1904.  The way it works is:  There are 2 pans each weighing 130 tons when filled with water.  With one pan up and the other down the 2 balance each other.  It does not matter how many boats are in either pan.  A boat displaces it own weight in water.  When it is time to lower 1 pan and raise the other, 1 extra foot of water (130) tons is allowed to enter the upper pan.  This extra weight allows the upper pan to push down and raise the lower pan to the top level.  We drove Lionheart into the lower pan and then, whoosh, just like an elevator, we were going up!  Being suspended in a pan full of water and boats is a special experience.  After that, the rest of the locks were boring until we got to Lock 44 which will be described later in this report.  Later that afternoon, as a huge thunderstorm approached the area, we could not find a marina on Pigeon Lake that could handle the size of Lionheart.  Soooooo, we just had to keep crossing the lake even though we couldn't see the channel markers in the rain, and lightening was striking all around us.  We did not get hit by lightening and the worst of the rain squall was probably only 5 minutes long, but it felt like a very long and tense afternoon and we were very happy to get to Bobcaygeon just before dark.  The entrance to the town dock there is a very narrow S curve.  The people on the small boats at the wall nearly fell off their boats as the behemoth Lionheart poked her nose around the corner and into their nice little dock party! 

We spent 2 nights on the town wall in Bobcaygeon which is a truly picturesque village that is known for its shoe store.  I personally liked the used bookstore, the bike path, and the hotdog man by the canal.  The Captain loved the hardware store.  We also met a really fun couple on another boat, Why Knot.  They are from Florida and we enjoyed talking with them very much and hoped to meet them further up the road.

We spent Canada Day, July 1, on the town wall in Fenlon Falls which is Lock 34.  Canada Day is like the 4th of July with all manner of celebration, including a Steam Engine Show at the fairgrounds.  We walked over to see what this was all about and were treated to a fine display of tractors, some really old ones with steam engines, as well as steam driven sawmills and shingle makers.  The highlight of the event, however, was a tractor pull.  There were grown men, women and children competing on a course set up in front of bleachers which were filled with cheering family and friends.  Each contestant hooked his tractor (some were quite small and some were quite big) to some kind of sled and then pulled until the machine croaked.  It looked like 50 feet was a major accomplishment...most pulls being of shorter distances.  I describe this in detail because I am pretty sure none of my readers have ever seen a tractor pull and are unlikely to seek one out to attend.  Now you don't have to bother.

We spent 4 days in Orillia which is a lovely town that marks the end of the canal portion of the waterway and begins the trips through the cottage lake country.  While in Orillia we visited the local First Nation casino which is located about 5 miles from the docks, across the lake.  There is a free shuttle to the casino every half hour.  The first night we went we thought we would check out the gambling.  However, we were stunned by the high stakes (no blackjack table under $15) and the numbers of people there.  We found out that people are bussed in from Toronto for the gambling and concerts.  We decided against gambling that night and enjoyed a fabulous dinner in their steak house instead.  The next night we attended a Sheryl Crow concert in their 5000 seat arena.  We are still trying to get our hearing back.  It was very fun but it was very loud.  I had forgotten that part about rock concerts!  After Orillia, we spent 1 night on Sparrow Lake where we saw and heard loons for the first time.  They are beautiful birds and they sound just like Katherine Hepburn in "On Golden Pond" when she makes that bird call.  Unfortunately, I could not get close enough to get a good photo.

The 23 boat flotilla rafted together in Rawson Bay

The flotilla traveling in a line through the narrow channels of the Georgian Bay

Yup, that's a flying dingy up in the sky in the Georgian Bay.  Did I mention the Canadians are real inventive?

On July 8 we arrived at the mother of all locking experiences; Big Chute which is lock 44.  We spent 2 nights at the Big Chute lock wall watching the procedure and getting up our nerve to commit Lionheart to this passage.  Why Knot was also tied up to the wall so we had and evening of fun with the Sheppards and agreed to take each other's photos going through the Big Chute.  Big Chute is not a lock, it is a railroad car contraption that lifts boats out of the water and carries them down a rail to accomplish the drop of 57 feet without exchanging water between Lake Simcoe and  the Georgian Bay.  This is another engineering marvel and was conceived and built so that the lamprey eel would not be admitted into Lake Simcoe from the Great Lakes waters.  As you can see from the photos, that was quite a ride!   We had only 1 more lock after Big Chute and it was a piece of cake.

From July 14 to July 23, we stayed in Beacon Bay Marina in Penetanguishene, Ontario.  The marina is like a yacht club with a swimming pool and lovely grounds with picnic tables and BBQs dockside.  Bob and Karen Jantz own Beacon Bay and were the hosts of the AGLCA Canadian rendezvous this year.  We were one of  64 "Loopers" in attendance at this event so we finally met a whole group of people who are doing the same trip as we are this summer.  Many people take several years to do the Loop, but we had decided to do it in one year since we don't have a place to leave Lionheart for the winter, nor a house to go home to.  We met lots of people and learned a great deal about the lake and river portion of the trip that is yet to come.  Of course, there were the usual seminars on engine repair and toilet maintenance that no Captain would want to miss.  The evenings were full of social activities and we had a great time while there.  Some daytime activities included visiting the site of the British Navy and Military establishment that was built to protect Canadian interests from Americans after the War of 1812.  Another highlight was the dingy poker run that quickly disintegrated into a massive water fight.  We were well prepared since we are armed with 4 super soakers from our legendary yacht club days (a legend in our own minds!). 

On July 23 we left Beacon in company of 23 boats led by the Jantzes on My Bonus to explore the Georgian Bay.  The Georgian Bay is a lovely body of water with 30,000 islands, big and small, on the eastern side of Lake Huron.  We were glad we were with a flotilla to transit the narrow channels that take you through this complex maze of rocks.  We rafted with all 23 boats in Rawson Bay and took a 6 hour dingy ride up to the Moon River falls area one day.  We stayed in a marina in Parry Sound for 2 nights while mighty storms roared through the area.  As luck would have it, the Parry Sound Music Festival was in session and we attended a wonderful concert by the Australian String Quartet.  Further up the road in Bad River we were treated to a concert by one of the loopers who had his wife drive him around in his dingy one foggy  morning while he played military marches on his accordion!  Also at Bad River, the Captain and I ran some rapids in our dingy.  What a blast!  Sorry, no photos.  We were too busy with the ride.  We spent our 34th wedding anniversary, July 29, in Byng Inlet and went out to dinner at the Little Britt Inn.  It is a small world.  The people who own this inn also own a resort very close to where our friend Dale Grenoble has his home in Honduras.

The flotilla broke up in Killarney, which is famous for its fried fish restaurant which is actually a converted bus.  A bit o regional color.   From there we moved on to Little Current where 14 loopers met up again to take a bus tour of Manitoulin Island which is the largest fresh water island in the world.  You reach this island by water or across a swing bridge from the Ontario mainland.  We, of course, went through the swing bridge on the hour and arrived at Spider Bay Marina.  There are lots of spiders at Spider Bay and I saw a snake swimming in the water.  I have not been swimming since!  There is a large First Nations population on the island and we attended a native dance at the cultural center and had a very informative talk about the life and beliefs of the First Nation people.

On August 5 we left Manitoulin Island and began our trip through the North Channel which is the north section of the Georgian Bay.  We anchored in several beautiful coves, making short morning trips to avoid the afternoon winds.  This keeps the Cat Unit happy since he still does not enjoy choppy water.  In fact, the inland waterway travel was just his cup of tea.  No complaints and no lost lunches.  In John's Harbor we went ashore to pick blueberries but found the bears and other boaters had picked the place pretty clean.  We did get enough for fresh blueberry pancakes and we enjoyed those very much.  August 9 was our last day in Canada.  We stayed at the Thessalon Marina.  A nice dock and the best laundry facility of the trip.  At this point in the trip, good (and low) docks and a good washer and dryer have become much more important to me than one would ever imagine.  As little as 1 year ago I took both for granted!

On August 10 we made the 14 mile run from Thessalon, Ontario, to Drummond Island, Michigan, and checked back into the US through customs.  Once again, we loved the Canadian portion of the trip but were glad to be back in the good old USA and to have our cell phones reconnected.  So feel free to call us again but remember, the current time difference between us and California is 3 hours.

One of the Captain's favorite moments -- from Zihuatanejo -- sunset with the Admiral and Nick




Entering Lake Ontario at Oswego Light

Swans on the Bay of Quinte


Our friends, Sistie and Jerry Sheppard on the dock in Midland after surviving the Big Chute

The British garrison at Penetanguishene built in 1817 This one's for C.T. and Riley

The flotilla in another narrow channel

A long dingy ride to the falls at Moon River

A typical cottage on the Georgian Bay

Inuckshuk - Many of these stone figures seen along the way in the Georgian Bay and North Channel. 

Bridal Veil Falls on Manitoulin Island

Picking blueberries on John Island, North Channel

Looking across the North Channel, Lake Huron, Ontario, toward the islands of Michigan


A church along the waterway for those religious locking experiences!

Up in the air in Lift Lock #2

Leaving the Lift Lock #2

Partying on the dock in Orillia

Would you trust this contraption with your boat?

Lionheart up in the railway car with another boat

Lionheart goes over the top of Big Chute

Lionheart goes down and into the water again

This one is for Merv

Canada Day, Fenlon Falls