To anyone hoping for an insightful essay about Kawartha Lakes flora and fauna or historical tidbits about the poor Italian bastards who died digging locks for us to enjoy, we’re sorry to disappoint you. Feel free to skip this post and wait for the next one, which may or may not be more informational but definitely will be shorter.
Because after we picked up Brad and Kate in Port Severn, we had so much fun over the next nine days that we forgot all about the blog until they headed back to Wyoming from Campbellford, just two stops from Trenton. Then for the last two days we were resting from all that fun and forgot all about the blog. So basically this one post has to cover the entire Trent-Severn Waterway. Which is asking a lot. We’re including a bunch of photos, however, which will provide the gist of things to folks who haven’t been in these parts and haven’t read the more detailed reports from our last time through here.
Day one was a Big one, as in Big Chute Marine Railway.
Just enough time for a quick drone flight of questionable legality whilst we waited at the bottom for our turn.
We’ve often wondered why Canada still uses this ponderous and expensive mechanism instead of just digging another conventional lock. At least according to a young lady in a green Parks Canada shirt at a subsequent lock, it’s because the Big Chute acts as a barrier preventing the spread of invasive sea lampreys. That part made sense. The part where she said they attach to boats but fall off and die on the trip over land didn’t make sense and we didn’t see any carcasses when we walked around, but whatever. Once again the ride was pretty cool, even behind the shirtless dude.
Kate immediately proved her worth in conventional locks. Brad did a masterful job of standing around.
Just as we promised our guests, the ride to Orillia was just about as awesome as possible.
If any of us were doing a Big Year, we could check swans off the list.
Because (1) he was born there and (2) he recently died, Orillia is all about Gordon Lightfoot (RIP). Among other tributes, they attached guitar sculptures with themes about him or songs from his catalog on every lamppost in town. We got photos of about thirty of them, but we figure it’d get pretty tedious if we included every one.
Most of the day out of Orillia was the uneventful crossing of Lake Simcoe. Still,—because as Dana later correctly observed, “Brad and Kate put the voodoo on us”—we were having so much fun we failed to take our usual number of photos. Just one picturesque passage, and the Bolsover Lock Wall the morning after some docking funny-business and Code Names.
Incidentally, we love us some Kate and don’t want to offend, but if the clue is “Halloween,” “unicorn” may not be the best guess when “pumpkin” and “witch” are available.* There’s also a good argument that it’s unwise for husbands to drink away the afternoon at the Bolsover Lock while wives walk to the small town, but maybe that’s just a myth.
Going our direction, the Bolsover Lock is at the start of the dreaded stretch involving shallow, stumpy Canal Lake, followed by the narrow Trent Canal, followed by the even shallower and stumpier Mitchell Lake. Yuck. Actually, Canal Lake turned out ok. We posted our jolly ranchers on the bow to look for stuff we might hit. No damage done. Despite the rain we remembered to take a picture of Canal Bridge, which an earlier sign says was the first in Canada to be made of reinforced concrete. All we know is that it’s just as cool from both directions.
We also made it through the canal unscathed.
As an added bonus we got to watch Kate jump when we blasted the warning horn just above her head as we rounded a blind corner.
Particularly with a Kate aboard, one reasonably might assume this is Leonardo DiCaprio gazing out from the bow, watching for icebergs. Nope. It’s Brad.
We did bump a few times in Mitchell Lake, but we’re quite certain it wasn’t anybody’s fault.
Oh yeah. The Second Highest Hydraulic Lift Lock in The World sits in the Trent Canal. Although mechanical problems meant we had to kill a couple of hours before even starting the long one-hour journey to the top, we took not a single photo of the lock. Just Tumbleweed waiting at the bottom on the same wall where we spent a memorable night next to Second Wave across from the naked dudes.
Wait a second here! A golf course? Who works up a business plan for a golf course that for 52 weeks every year will be covered in either snow or goose poop?
Out of curiosity we looked up the applicable rules. Per Rule 23-1, you may remove any “loose impediment” in your putting path, without penalty. Ironically, however, the looser the goose poop is, the more difficult it is to remove. That sounds like a significant penalty to us. Regardless, check goose off the Big Year list.
And Common Terns. Check.
Also, who says, “Honey, I think the back yard is just about perfect. All we need is a huge dog statue.”? And who responds, “What a great idea!”?
Yup, there’s some sketchy judgment in this stretch of the Trent-Severn Waterway.
Just past the hideous, er, interesting big dog statue, we rolled up to the Rosedale Lock wall for the night.
Although the Rosedale Lock may look remote, we found a Kawartha Ice Cream stand within walking distance, down past the canal banks where nice people set up boat-watching blinds.
We stopped at Rosedale primarily because the lock attendant called ahead to check out the Fenelon Falls lock wall situation. Jam packed. At least that set us up for a nice day to Bobcaygeon, although the only photos we took to prove it are of a colorful cottage and a houseboat on which we won’t comment. We particularly are taken with the sit-down paddle board contraption.
But we did get a spot with power when we arrived, and have a photo to prove it.
At first glance, this might appear to be a photo of the musician setting up for the live performance we waited over an hour to enjoy but then got tired of waiting for and went back to the boat. Nope. It’s a photo of Tumbleweed, artfully framed by the restaurant window.
Saturday brought a rainy cruise to Lakefield. That’s the story. Just rain.
And a church on an island. Rain and an island church, with “doors open to all.” Obviously by that they meant “doors open to all with a boat or a willingness to swim to church.”
But the rain lifted just as we pulled in ahead of the increasingly-frustrated lady on the radio who couldn’t get the dock guy to answer with her slip assignment, and the sun was out by the time Doug got the drone up.
Lakefield is a cool enough little town.
On the walk into town, we stopped by an awesome used book store housed in an old train station. The Meads bought books. Nobody took a photo. Dinner at the canoe place. Nobody took a photo. We did get a picture of the pleasant road back to the boat, but admit it’s not much. The sunset, however, was a good one.
On our way out of Lakefield Sunday morning, we passed a boat named Shag Master III. We all clucked judgmentally but didn’t take a photo. A mile or two later—as we were prepping for the next lock—we discovered that one of our two big orange ball fenders was missing, almost certainly for some reason other than because Doug failed to secure it properly after loosening it to remove a dock line from the cleat they shared. Grrrr. We need that fender for the Erie Canal. Wait another second! Here comes Shag Master III’s tender, bringing a big orange ball fender. We mentally took back all that misplaced sanctimony as we cruised on towards Peterborough, through gorgeous scenery, with Kate continuing to handle locks with ease and Brad continuing to stand around.***
Peterborough. Home to The World’s Highest Hydraulic Lift Lock. No need to be up-down-uppers this go round, because down gets you the view over the edge.
While in the last lock of the day, Doug chatted with some kayakers who were in there with us. Took some photos for them. One of them returned the favor and caught us from kayak level when we left.
What’s most interesting about this photo, however, isn’t the angle. Or Tumbleweed. It’s that Mainship 400 off to the left. That’s right, it’s our old pal Red Pearl. We met Steve and Kathy in Historic Cocoa Village, hung out on their boat in New Smyrna Beach, and had a fun dinner with them at a Thai joint in St. Augustine. That was 2019. In 2021 we tied up behind Red Pearl at ZMI in Deltaville but nobody was aboard. Crazy to see them in Peterborough in 2023.
Peterborough sort of is like Fountain Hills, only without notable scumbag Joe Arpaio as a resident.
Staying an extra day gave us time cruise around in the dinghy for a bit, which in turn allowed us to pop over for a catch-up chat with Red Pearl and another low-angle Tumbleweed shot. Big fun.
Before leaving town we had some good meals, explored, and stumbled over the site of Peterborough’s “first commercial building,” which a man “of Loyalist stock” built in 1856. Very exciting stuff.
After Peterborough, another fantastic cruising day took us to Hastings. This stretch lacked locks so we spent most of it on the flybridge, which was much safer and more pleasant after Doug figured out why the flybridge autopilot remote wasn’t working.
Sadly, we reached Hastings on Tuesday, not Thursday. Thursday is Karaoke Night at McGillicafey’s Pub. But we ate and walked around and had the requisite “loads of fun” anyway, although we didn’t catch a fish.
Wednesday morning three of us slept while Dana got up for an epic sunrise. Which is why God invented cameras.
Brad and Kate did their 31st lock with us—Lock 13 for those scoring at home—just before we reached Campbellford. Doug wept at the thought of having to go out and hold lines himself the rest of the way, but covered it up nicely.
One final meal in town, one final walk past The World’s Largest Statue of a Toonie,*** and they were gone.
We’re insanely lucky to have great friends meet us or join us along our somewhat aimless way. We enjoyed every minute of the nine days we traveled with Brad and Kate. Lots of laughs and stories from when we all practiced law in Phoenix a gazillion years ago, to go along with deeply insightful discussions about politics and religion and stuff, which sounded really intelligent after much gin and wine. Even after multiple non-alcoholic beers Dana was able to score a draw with Kate in the eye-rolling competition.
Anyway, the Meads left us in Campbellford. Too bad for us, but also too bad for them. Because somehow we’re two for two in finding a cool country band playing in the park, and this time we didn’t even have to schlep chairs across the river. Just sit on the back porch in our pajamas. That right there’s what clean livin’ gets you.
Back to relying entirely on ourselves, yesterday we headed off for Frankford and new sights to see. Know what’s an even worse idea than Goose Poop Country Club? A paddlewheel boat on the Trent-Severn, that’s what.
The only thing less efficient than paddlewheel propulsion is paddlewheel steering. And steering on a narrow, winding, lock-filled waterway is kind of a big deal. Also, while we envy two-story roominess, there’s a lot of surface area on that sucker. It’s easy to picture the proud owners on the day of her maiden voyage, loading her up with provisions and friends and family. Maybe smashing a champagne bottle on what would be the bow if she had one. Then—moments after pulling out—a two-knot breeze hit her on the beam and pushed her right into the weeds, where she sits to this day. Sad.
Six locks after leaving, we were pleased to pull into the Frankford Lock approach at a quite reasonable hour, mostly because we lucked into beating Slainte to the blue wall in Campbellford.
We were even more pleased to see plenty of available wall space. When we last were here—with Blomo aboard—Loopers jammed the place like clowns in a VW.
Here’s a photo of “town,” and what we think is the only traffic light.
Dinner at Dimitri’s was fine, before we had to speed-walk back to the boat to avoid the thunderstorm. But we slept well in the rain, and Dana got up early enough this morning for another good photo.
Then a short seven-mile run to Trenton, which would’ve been much faster had it not involved our final six locks. Still some last-minute scenery along the way though.
Lock 1 technically is the start of the Trent-Severn Waterway, but was the last one for us. Which is good, because we’re ready for a few days without one.
One last hurdle though. After exiting Lock 1 we spotted a deadhead floating in the middle of the Trent River. Deadheads easily can foul a prop and ruin the day for an unwary boater.
Dude was just dog-paddling along, smilingly oblivious to his potential role in fouling a prop and ruining a boater’s day.
The last thing we put behind us—other than our final Canadian poomp-oot for the season—was the starting line for folks going the traditional way.
That’s right, baby. We now know the Trent-Severn Waterway forwards and backwards. We’re staying at Trent Port for a couple of days before heading stateside. Supposedly there’s going to be a drone show tonight. If it’s worthy, we’ll post a photo next time.
*Fairness might dictate noting some equally foolish guesses by those of us who live on Tumbleweed, but we control the blog. And life ain’t fair.
**We admit that these cheap shots at Brad are totally misleading. He repeatedly offered to help with every task possible, so as to not just stand around. It’s absolutely not his fault that we felt more comfortable with Kate.
***Again with Queen Elizabeth on Canada’s money. We just don’t get it. Also, we asked yet another Canadian for an explanation of the Governor General. She said “I don’t know. I don’t pay attention to politics.”