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Trent Severn (2nd half)

July 4th Stoney Lake to Bobcaygeon

Winding through the islands of Stoney Lake was gorgeous and fun except for some of the tighter passages with granite islands on either side. It was a day of a few locks, through a couple lakes, and still more locks. We went right past the base of Burleigh waterfalls, making Radar give us his “what are you humans doing?” look. The terrain became flatter and had more forest and wetlands.

We stopped at the lock wall at Bobcaygeon, where Nancy had some medicine shipped to her. The marina she had the medication shipped to, while recommended in the guide were not taking transients this year and the lady was irritated that she had sent a package there without her permission. Nancy thinks the lady had her revenge, because Nancy ended up in 95 degree heat walking to the post office twice, the lock masters office 3 times and dinghying twice (each time 4 miles) to the marina and back before she got her prescription. Each time the lady said the envelope was somewhere else.

Nancy got a chance to wander the town and go to a beach and swim with Radar, while poor Jason was fixing stuff on the boat. We did have a tasty dinner (Jason ordered a cheeseburger in honor of July 4th), where we learned from the owner that the lock bridge which is on the main street of the town has been under renovation for 3 and a half years, after being told it would only take 6 months. Some things are universal!

By the way, we celebrated Jason turning 60 at anchor at Stoney Lake. Nancy having gotten him some gifts from an army surplus stores (most of the small towns stores cater to women). He got a backpack, a t-shirt and a head lamp. But Nancy thinks he appreciated the dinghy exploration through the islands of Stoney Lake much more! We spent another night at Bobcaygeon giving Jason a little bit of a break. The pace has been pretty constant.

July 6 Bobcaygeon to Kirkfield

This part of the Trent Severn was more populated with shoreline cottages. Adirondack chairs are very popular in Canada. There must be a law saying you can only have Adirondack chairs on docks because you never see any other type of chair.

We went through several more locks reaching the highest elevation of 841 feet at Lake Balsam, until we got to Kirkland (lock 36), which is the 2nd tallest hydraulic lock in North America (after Peterborough). However, one of its carriages was being renovated, so instead of using gravity they had to manually pump water into the pistons, so it took an hour for the carriage to get from the bottom to the top 54 feet up. Fortunately, for us, we only had to wait on the wall for 20 minutes, and the ride down only took five minutes. That turned out to be a good thing because we tied up at the lock wall, just as an afternoon thunderstorm hit. All the remaining locks will be lowering the boat around waterfalls.

Because of the construction, the lock wall stairs were blocked. That allowed Nancy to let Radar roam free on the lock wall. They played fetch for a long time (the ball only went into the lock once!)

July 7 Kirkfield to Orillia. It was a beautiful day. We went through Kawartha lake, which seemed very popular with lots of small cottages dotting the shore line. Had a few more locks and a few more narrow sections before popping out on Lake Simcoe, the largest lake on the Trent Severn Waterway. Nancy had to admit that it felt good to open up the engines and let the boat run at speed for 20 minutes.

All in all though, the two days from Bobcaygeon to Orillia saw us moving west for the most challenging part of the Trent Severn Waterway. This section is referred to as The Ditch due to its narrow width and shallow depth. The penalty for straying out of the middle of the channel is swift and severe! We only had a few feet on either side of the boat before hitting rock.

This section also includes the aptly named Hole In The Wall bridge as well as 11 locks from start to finish. We were relieved to have safely made it to safely to Orillia, Ontario and were ready for a break.

The town of Orillia was hosting a folk music festival on the outskirts of town. They also shut down a portion of their main street and some performances were held on a stage there.

Nancy particularly liked the Dixieland Jazz band and was surprised that so many Canadians could sing along. Nancy’s Dad would have absolutely loved it!

There was an awesome bakery/coffee/lunch/fudge/gift shop. Their shepherds pies and sausage rolls were amazing, as were their cookies and donuts.

Nancy reprovisioned at the grocery store that was only two blocks away (if you illegally cut through the construction zone). Both Done Savin and Senza Fina were also in port. Turns out Mike at Senza Fina and Jason figured out there electrical issues were due to a bad battery cell at the same time, but they commiserated on the 1,000 other things they both checked before solving the mystery.

We ended up going out to dinner with George and Tracy from Done Savin. George worked as a production line supervisor for a GM plant for many years and Tracy was a paramedic. Really nice, down to earth couple. They had family coming in the next day. In the morning, Nancy saw a man who looked a lot like George with a suitcase just outside of the gate and was letting them in when George and Tracy showed up.

Because Big Chute, the railway lock, was understaffed, they were not allowing the larger boats through on the weekends, so we stayed in Orillia another night and then it turned out you could get 3 nights free if you spent 2 nights so we stayed another night as well. It was nice to finally stop for a bit. Although with all the boat chores, it still felt like too short a break when we left for Big Chute. Orillia had nice waterfront trails and cool artwork.

July 9 Orillia to Big Chute

The route to Big Chute was lots of little lakes connected by narrow channels. There was quite the line of loopers in front of us that we could see on our Nebo app since everyone else also had to wait for the weekend. A local had warned us not to honk our horn at the first railroad bridge because the bridge tender hated it and would make you wait an extra long time.

Nancy was steering through a narrow passage, and the looper boat in front of her came to a halt for no apparent reason. However, it turns out that there was a long line of 8 boats in front of us waiting for the railway bridge. Cheers who had left 2 hours before us was just before the bridge and told us that it was supposed to open in another 20 minutes. Thirty minutes later we saw a train go by, and we didn’t start moving until 15 minutes after that. Because we were in such a narrow section, Nancy had to exactly hold station for the entire time. Then we came to the bridge, the bridge started to swing shut. Just as Nancy started to stop, they re-opened it.

It was a beautiful part of the trip. We caught up with several other loopers at the free docks next to the Big Chute. A few of the loopers went through and we walked over to see them. We filmed a couple of them and emailed them the footage. The railway hill is much steeper than it looked on the videos. We decided to wait until the morning to go through.

July 10 Big Chute to Midland

Despite the intimidation factor of The Big Chute, the short trip on the marine railway turned out to be less stressful than what waited just beyond. The boat was loaded and secured without issue and it was apparent that the staff running things knew what they were doing.

They asked the right questions when it came to the boat and utilized underwater cameras to make sure nothing got damaged.

The trip on the rails was a lot rougher than we anticipated; it looked much smoother when we weren’t the ones riding on it. Think a cross between an older wooden roller coaster and the NYC subway type of ride. All in all, though, we re-entered the water at the bottom no worse for wear, fired up the engines and were off, only to find ourselves in a narrow slalom course of channel markers passing under a bridge in a swift, dam-induced current. Not what we expected nor was it mentioned in any of the guide books. After a few interesting navigational moments, we found ourselves moving into Gloucester Pool and on our way to Lock 45.

There were several granite passages only one boat wide with lots of current. One section even had standing white water, the current was flowing so fast!

Another had a 90 degree left hand turn in front of a large granite cliff with a large sign saying "Danger!" placed exactly where your boat would hit the rock if you didn’t make the turn.

Port Severn was the last lock of 45 on the Trent Severn Waterway. It is also very small and dropped us several stories down. On exiting, the current from the waterfall immediately starts pushing the boat around. Jason and Nancy were happy to see the last of those locks! Nancy joyfully cut off the garbage bags off the six fenders!

There were two routes to Midland, one of which went around an island. Nancy said there was one segment that was both narrow and shallow but briefly. Instead of going around a large wooded island, the trees ended around the next bend and the rest was through a maze of granite boulders. Very cool, but still tense.

We crossed the bay south of Port Severn to Midland as a storm was approaching. Unfortunately, the storm just beat us and they gave us at an interior slip to help make putting the 160 lb battery easier to install. The storm brought wind and Jason was struggling to keep the boat in the aisle with the wind side-to, much less turn the boat 180 degrees around so we were port-to (the six fenders and four lines were already set for port). Nancy was just switching them all to starboard where the boat suddenly got in the lee of the large boat motel and Jason was able to quickly pivot her. The day started stressful, remained stressful and ended stressful!

However, once we get our new battery, we will start our exploration of Georgian Bay, which most Loopers say has the most spectacular scenery on the entire loop!

Here is the map of our trail for the 2nd half of the Trent Severn Waterway in Canada. Lake Ontario is to the Southeast and Georgian Bay is to the Northwest. The Trent Severn connects the two bodies of water.



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