The vast majority of Loopers cruise the fabulous Trent-Severn Waterway through an awesome little piece of Ontario. Generally they start in Trenton and end in Port Severn and then tell all their friends that they ran the entirety of it. Hell, until two weeks ago we were two of those sadly mistaken Loopers who told our friends that we’d done the entirety of it. False. Because there’s a six-mile stretch of canal between the Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario that only a very small subset of weirdo Loopers—i.e., those who aren’t heading to Port Severn but still go out of their way to Trenton anyway because someone has to catch a plane in Toronto and realized too late that there’s no place to dock in Toronto so needed to find a train station—would have any reason to transit.
So NOW we’ve done the whole thing.
And it was pretty cool, except for the pushy dude in the little SeaRay who unsuccessfully tried to bully and then deceive the Carrying Place Bridge bridgemaster into letting him through without us, even though we were only a few minutes behind. That dipshit was not cool.
The Brighton Road Bridge bridgemaster doubles as the Brighton Road Bridge toll-collector, because everyone who wants brag about doing the entire Trent-Severn Waterway—or who just wants to take a shortcut home—has to put their $5.25 in the cup as they pass by.
Except us. We foiled the nice lady with the cup by showing our Parcs Canada season pass, and felt very accomplished by doing so.
Then on out into Lake Ontario, where not even a gazillion non-photogenic birds could interrupt a great day for traveling.
Cobourg—where we stopped for two nights—is known as “the gem of Lake Ontario,” at least to the good people of Cobourg. We won’t argue. Cobourg is right up there with some of our favorite stops. Cobourg has everything.
Cobourg has a nice little marina. Sheltered harbor. Deep water. No weeds.
Cobourg Harbour also once was home to an America’s Cup challenger, although we concede that would be far more impressive had it occurred more recently than 1876.
Cobourg has a beach, which the locals say gets clogged with Toronto riff-raff on the weekends but looked pleasant enough during our stay.
Cobourg has a small downtown filled with delicious restaurants we both enjoyed, and cool little shops—including a treasure-filled bookstore—that Dana enjoyed alone while Doug did important stuff that didn’t involve little shops. Heck, they even timed the street market to coincide with our visit. That never happens.
Cobourg has a stately old building. Victoria Hall serves as both the town hall and a live performance venue that next month is featuring a musical about that precocious troublemaker Matilda.
Cobourg has an iconic statue, although it’s not labeled and our waitress drew a blank despite living in Cobourg for six years. Even an exhaustive five-minute internet search whilst waiting for our tacos yielded no explanation for it. We still like the dude.
Cobourg has a remarkably-niche museum featuring Canadian female film trailblazers from a century ago, a full 33.3% of whom we recognized. By name only, of course, because the place was closed so we couldn’t see any photos.
Cobourg has this contraption, which is as mysterious as the statue but will come in way more handy if the future is anything remotely Mad Max-like.
But, some might ask, what about pickleball? Yup. Indoor and outdoor courts.
So even though we’d be the only Americans in town, basically we’d move to Cobourg except (1) our thirty years of physiological Arizona conditioning means that at about 55° our blood turns the viscosity of cured concrete, and (2) it’s against the law for Canadians to sell or rent homes to people with our well-documented opinion of poutine. But dang, Cobourg is a great place to visit.
By leave-the-dock time Friday morning, the fog that first rolled over Lake Ontario Wednesday afternoon was gone, which is a good thing, because we’re a tad fuzzy on the appropriate horn sequence when traveling through it. Crystal clear day all the way to Whitby.
And by golly we needed to get to Whitby. Because there’s a Home Depot relatively near the marina and Doug dismantled the galley faucet on Thursday only to find that the replacement assembly he bought needed adaptors and profanity.
The only real excitement on the trip was when the Canadian Coast Guard started asking folks to help a boat on fire in Lake Erie, when Red Devil hustled to help rescue two paddle boarders but was aced out by some unnamed interloper, and when Kenny reported that ten-year-old Cole had just caught his first salmon. A 28 pounder, which is a big fish no matter how old you are. About an hour after the south wind started driving three- and four-foot Lake Ontario waves into our port side, we ducked into Port Whitby.
Whitby really was just a functional stop, not an exploration stop. Which is a good thing because Port Whitby is a boatyard without much around. On our gritty Home Depot walk we passed by the Whitby Rail Maintenance Facility, however, so we now know where passenger cars are painted. Which isn’t much but it’s something.
Saturday brought another long travel day, this time to the industrial city of Hamilton. We know what people in the rest of Ontario think about Hamilton, because every time we mentioned we were going there, they invariably said “Why would you go to Hamilton? Hamilton sucks.” By the time we heard that enough times for it to sink in, however, we’d already paid the non-refundable dockage fee. Oh well, throw on some George Strait and let’s go.
No radio drama on the trip across the west end of Lake Ontario. Nobody reported a crisis. Nobody reported a fish. Beautiful weather. Smooth water. About the only thing of significance was passing Toronto.
At 1,815 feet the The CN Tower was the world’s tallest tower for a bunch of years. There’s an annual fundraiser that involves racing up 1776 steps to the main observation deck. The record is just under eight minutes. That’s just absurd. Because we had limited time when we went up a few days ago, we decided to save seven minutes by taking the high-speed elevator with the other schlubs.
Canada’s busiest commercial seaport is in Hamilton, protected by the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge.
Just before the bridge we passed Hamilton Beach. Which would’ve been great if we needed a crockpot or a toaster oven.
Since we didn’t need any kitchen appliances we went on under the bridge with a zillion other boats.
Hamilton being an important seaport and all, big ships were scattered about the bay amongst the sailboats.
The HMCS Haida—which Parcs Canada touts as “the Royal Canadian Navy’s most famous ship”—is a decommissioned destroyer operating as a museum around the corner from Harbour West Marina. She sank more WWII surface tonnage than any other Canadian warship. Since Hamilton also mostly was a one-night pit stop we took a picture on the way by but didn’t go visit.
There’s not much within walking distance of the marina, but we did stop at a convenience store run by a guy from England. Turns out he loves and carries Dana’s favorite chocolate, which is hard to find on this side of the Atlantic. He had 25 of them in stock. Dana bought them all.
The Hamilton highlight was when John and Jenn from Salty Rose stopped by with margaritas. Great folks. Not Loopers. The Hamilton lowlight was the God-awful electronic dance “music” from the rave at the park with the Canadian flag about two hundred feet off our stern. It was thumping when we arrived at 3 and thumped nonstop until nearly midnight. But hey, the marina is nice enough.
After her morning run, Dana reported that in fact the non-industrial bits of Hamilton are far more enjoyable than the naysayers led us to anticipate. But right now we’re on our way to Fifty Point Conservation Area, which promises to be a tad more scenic and quiet.