After a wet and bumpy ride across the east end of Lake Ontario, we safely arrived in Kingston’s Confederation Basin Marina and were OK’d for entry through our ArrivCan app. Kingston is a city of about 130,000 and the marina is adjacent to a great waterfront park and a thriving downtown filled with shops, restaurants, pharmacies, a bakery, and a large grocery store all within a few blocks. We explored for 2 days, celebrated our 47th anniversary (with a rainbow to boot!) and prepared to start our journey north up the Rideau Canal towards Ottawa.
We had heard much about the historic canal and lock system to Ottawa completed in 1832. The large gears that open and close the lock gates are still cranked by hand, so we were excited to experience it first hand. But right out of the marina we encountered a swing bridge that would not open for us and other boats until 9am, and shortly after that a bridge under construction where we waited (at anchor) for over an hour to pass through. We have come to realize that Canadians are very patient people–they wait at crosswalks with no cars in sight for the “Walk” sign, they stop and tie up their boats to chat or picnic while waiting for a lock to open and in general, seem less hurried than most Americans we know (including ourselves). I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learned, and it is slowly sinking in.
The Rideau Canal and other Canadian canals usually have mooring walls both above and below the locks where boats must tie up to wait for the lock keepers to tell you when and in which order boats should enter the lock (often multiple boats at once). This is very different than locks in the US where requests for passage and instructions from the lock keeper are all done via VHF radio. In Canada if you want to pass directly thru the lock you tie up on the part of the wall where there is a blue line. Once inside the lock you loop your boat’s lines around cables attached to the wall to stabilize it during the lifting or dropping process. If you just want to hang out or stay overnight, you tie up on the wall where there is no blue line. Many of the areas around the locks are park-like with picnic tables, bathroom facilities, and some even have 30 amp electric posts to plug into. We stayed “on the wall” at several locks and met some very nice people, including Doug who was traveling solo on his older 45′ Chris Craft trawler named “Y Knot Moor”. We enjoyed Doug and his dog Sadie”s company on our way north and south on the Rideau Canal.
On our 2nd day on the Rideau we started to feel like we were in the BWCA…lots of granite bedrock protruding everywhere, rocky islands, northern and boreal tree and shrub species and crystal clear water. Frequently the canal gave way to larger lakes connected by narrow channels interspersed with locks. On day 3 we reached Westport, a great small town at the west end of Upper Rideau Lake. Once again, we experienced a community with friendly people, colorful mailboxes and wonderful amenities within a few blocks of the marina.
After two fun days in Westport and provisioning at the local grocer, we left to anchor out on the lake and fish a bit. We swam off the boat with Zeke, caught and released some nice perch and a huge bass and enjoyed the day and evening. We pulled the anchor in the morning and decided to head back south as the wind was expected to increase steadily over the next day or two and there were several large lakes and marshes to cross and many more locks to pass through heading north. We made it back to Kingston battling strong winds, but the worst were yet to come the following day!
Gale force winds and rain tore the 2 solar panels off our bimini the following day. One landed on the dock and was retrieved while the other took off like a flying carpet and landed in 18-20 feet of water in the marina basin (as reported by a neighbor boat on our dock). We lowered the dinghy and fished for it the next morning with our super-duper magnets with no luck. So…..on to explore more of the Canadian coastline and the Thousand Islands area at the east end of Lake Ontario!!