Rideaux Loop Log

Pine Tree Island, NY to Brockville, ON.

Left Pine Tree Island quite late because some guests stayed until after lunch and we needed time to prepare the C for the Rideau loop. Had a peaceful run to Brockville, passing the same “pirate” ship that we had seen off Dark Island earlier in the day. Officially entering Canada was a breeze; we didn’t need our passports and the whole transaction was completed over the phone in five minutes. We then strolled to the Buell Street Bistro for supper. The harbor was quiet, but we had moored underneath one of the several big lights which stayed on all night and lit up our vee birth more than we would have liked.

Brockville, ON to Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC

We were up by 0730 hrs. and both took showers before breakfast. As we left the harbor at 0835 hrs. we saw the “pirate” ship from yesterday moored near the entrance; it’s obviously a tourist boat out of Brockville. We reached the Iroquois Lock only to see a big freighter going in, and so settled in for a long wait. Instead, the wait was very short, and then we remembered that the Iroquois Lock only drops about 18”.  In fact we are small enough to go through the sluice gate at the dam and save ourselves $25, but I wasn’t sure of the clearances at the time. We passed the freighter a few miles downstream, and were mooring at the pleasure craft dock at the Eisenhower Lock when a pick-up screeched to a halt above us and the driver told us to get into the lock quickly or we would have to wait for the freighter. We obeyed with alacrity, and they got us through quickly and held the Snell lock open for us, where we joined two other boats locking through. The two other boats then sped off but,  after quite a rough trip through Lake St. Francis as a brisk SW breeze built up the chop over the long reach, we caught up with them again waiting with a trawler at Lock Beauharnois. We got to talking as we waited there about an hour (the lock men were painting something and wanted to finish before opening the lock!) and they gave us a lot of good advice on the Rideau. The owner of L’Express even said he would lead us to the channel around Ile Perot at the intersection of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers, but in fact he sped off again, and Mary and I had a hard time finding the channel. When we stopped to decide which way to go the engine warning buzzer went off. I had no idea what was wrong, and so just stopped and restarted the engine and everything seemed OK. Worrying though. We arrived at the lock wall in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue at 1830 hrs. and walked around town before having pizza for supper. The noise from the nearby train bridge was a little loud, but we slept well anyway.

Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue to the Lac Leamy Casino, QC.

We rose again at 0730 hrs. to find a request to pay for the overnight docking attached to one of our mooring lines. Although moored at the blue line of the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue lock by 0830 hrs., we had to wait half an hour for the lock to open, and our L’Express  friends gave us more advice, this time to spend the night at the free (including power) Lac Leamy Casino dock off the Gatineau River across from Ottawa. Claire and Leon, with whom we chatted while locking through on the floating dock (our favorite type of lock!), were also going to the casino. We cruised through the Lac des Deux Montagnes in perfect weather and again met Leon and Claire at the Carillon lock, where we had to raft with them because the floating dock was out for repair and the lock had only two cables to use. At about 1430 hrs. we stopped at the Fairmont Le Chȃteaux Montebello to fill up with gas and tour the building. This luxury hotel is one of the world’s largest log structures, having required over 10,000 red cedar logs to complete. Later we were welcomed by Jess at the Lac Leamy Casino dock that is reached via a circuitous, sometimes very narrow, but well signposted channel off the Gatineau river. We cleaned up and went into the casino for dinner where we again met Claire and Leon having a meal before she started on the one-arm bandits. Later we would find out that while he slept she netted over $800 before retiring at 0300 hrs.

Lac Leamy Casino, QC to Ottawa, ON.

We were up at 0645 hrs. for breakfast on board, and left at 0730 hrs. to wend our way back out to the Ottawa river and be on the blue line for the famous 8-lock ladder up to the Rideau canal in plenty of time. We started locking through at 0830 hrs., and found the Rideau locks very easy because they have cables every eight feet or so. By 1015 hrs. we were moored at the wall in downtown Ottowa. After touring the Canadian Parliament building, we had lunch at Chez Lucien, a funky little place recommended to us by one of the lock workers. We then bought a pair of padlocks so we could chain the C to the wall because we had been warned twice of incidents where boats had been untied in the middle of the night. We did it, but in the end we didn’t think it was really necessary. We spent much of the afternoon in the Canadian National Gallery, then visited the Rideau Center where I bought a new robe, and finally returned to the boat with a paper cup full of ice from a MacDonalds for margaritas and one of Mary’s wonderful evening meals. During the night I saw a flashlight played on the boat, so perhaps the hourly security check we were told about really happens.

Ottawa to Merrickville, ON.

After breakfast on board we were away by 0815 hrs. on yet another cloudless day. The Rideau between Ottawa and Merrickville is supposedly the boring part of the canal, but we found it really pretty except for the foam that often spoiled the locking experience.  We were very lucky with the locks, never having to wait at all, but we did hit a deadhead (or something) when we were running on the edge of the channel giving room to a large motor yacht.  We were in five feet of water, but the hit was hard enough to take a chip out of the motor’s skeg. The canal is supposed to be controlled at five feet, but we saw much shallower water many times in the channel. Merrickville is a nice, arty, small town. We toured the blockhouse museum, and then ran into Leon and Claire again at the Friends of the Rideau store.  Claire had won over $800 at the casino. “Better than the last time,” she said, ”when I only won $750.”  In town Mary was looking in the window of a supposedly closed crafts store when the store’s owner beckoned us in. He was doing his accounts, thought we might as well be looking around while he worked, and ended up with a sale as Mary bought some very pretty earrings. Later we ate at the Serendipity Bistro, where the waiter was flippant, the DJ music much too bass-y, but the food excellent.

Merrickville to Colonel Bi Island, ON.

Had breakfast in town at Brewed Awakening, where we were amused by a letter about what it would take to build a ramp up to the second floor of the local library to satisfy access requirements.  We then walked down to the library and found it closed, but we were able to get our email on my iPhone since the wifi was on. We stopped at Smith Falls at noon and were helped at the town dock by a talkative fellow boater who, when Mary noted that he wore hearing aids, was more than willing to tell us all about every detail of his Oticon Dual units. After visiting the Rideau Museum and walking around town, we had lunch at the Kilt and Castle, where the waitress had a funny accent, the soup was bland, but the pot pie was superb. At 1645 hrs. we arrived at the park on Colonel By island, where I made the mistake of trying to fit into the last space on the first dock we saw and hitting bottom in the process. Although there was no damage, I was irritated at myself when we found plenty of room at a second dock around the headland. There were quite a few campers, no facilities other than toilets, and Mary was a little chagrined that I hadn’t realized how much she had wanted to anchor out. Still, we had an interesting talk with a family who had several foster kids with them, another great supper on board, and a peaceful night’s sleep.

Colonel By Island to Cranberry Lake, ON.

After breakfast two of our neighbors helped us leave our shallow birth, but we still touched bottom gently on the way out.  Again no damage.  We stopped at Westport, ON for gas and groceries, and found a nice little town which caters to boaters with $2 showers close to the dock. At Newboro we visited one of the few stores in the town, but what a store! Originally a normal small town store, the owners have, over the years, bought several adjacent houses and incorporated them into a single huge store stocking a tremendous variety of goods. We bought some gourmet relishes and other foods as a gift for Sev and Jules. At Jones Falls we had to wait 45 minutes as boats were coming up the 4-lock ladder, so we visited the famous dam (at 60’ the highest dam in North America and third highest in the world when completed in 1831). Much to Mary’s delight we spent our final night of the trip at anchor in a beautiful cove off Cranberry Lake. The anchor did not set well because of the heavy weeds, but it was so calm that we were quite safe. We spent a beautiful evening in this peaceful place and later heard coyotes baying at the moon.

Cranberry Lake, ON to Pine Tree Island, NY.

We woke to mist on the water and tons of weed on the anchor which took me ten minutes with the boathook to remove. At the Upper Brewers lock we caught up with a Trojan 45 that we had seen on several other occasions and transited the rest of the locks with them all the way to Kingston. The rotund husband was quite talkative, but the wife, who may not have spoken English, was quiet and taciturn. We ate lunch in Kingston at Chez Piggy and then took the Canadian center channel to Boldt castle where we checked back into the US. Passing Wolfe Island gave us our first view of all the wind turbines and we were surprised by how many there were. We had had a great miniloop, but it was wonderful being back on a clean and peaceful Pine Tree Island.

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