The Long Stretch, with some thunderstorms.
|Date:||Thursday, June 21, 2007|
|Distance:||23.9 miles by water|
|Elevation:||337.5 feet above Great Lakes Datum|
Rain greets us in the morning. As we have stayed above the locks, we have a long walk down to the lock station were the bathrooms are and where we haul our coffee pot to get electricity to boil the water. We are not in a rush for we are still awaiting news about the repairs at lower Nicholson lock. By late morning we get word from the Lockmaster that the repairs are finished, as the engineers apparently worked late into the evening, and the lock will return to operation this afternoon. This is the best outcome for us, as we can continue on our trip to Ottawa with all our original plans in place. By the time we reach Nicholsons lock it should be fully operational.
After Chris returns from a shopping trip to town, we cycle down 25-feet in a stair step of three locks. Several other larger boats, which were staying overnight at The Pool in Merrickville, an alternative anchorage and dock, have gone ahead of us by about a half an hour. The Merrickville assistant lockmaster responds to my comment about the many trains we heard overnight:
"Sure there's a lot of trains. It's the CP (Canadian Pacific) main line," he says, "and there's a lot of goods to be moved across the province."
For some reason, I find his comment to be quite quaint, and it gives me a little reminder that in Canada our English language is spoken and used in a slightly different manner than in the states.
Before departing Merrickville I assess the fuel situation. We have about 45-miles of waterway to go before Ottawa, and our (electronic) fuel gauge shows only 17.1-gallons remain in the tank (although actually likely more, as this fuel flow transducer seems to over estimate our fuel usage and I have also left at least five gallons of margin). Since we can expect only about 1.6-MPG on average, we will need at least 28-gallons to reach Ottawa, so we decide it is prudent to take on more fuel here. In this way we will be certain to have enough to reach Ottawa if there are no more gas docks along the way. Just below the locks is a nice marina, Ayling's, with a fuel dock that looks like it has plenty of traffic. We prefer to buy fuel on the water from fuel sellers who look like they are busy, as this gives us fresher fuel and gasoline less likely to be contaminated with water. We add 55-liters (14.2-gallons) giving us 31.3 gallons as we depart. Leaving Ayling's we round the bend and come upon a very big railroad trestle, giving us a chance to finally see one of the many trains we heard overnight.
Here the river is more narrow and appears to be flowing in its natural channel, although backed up a bit by a large dam at Andrewsville, about 2.5-miles downstream. We idle along enjoying the cool morning, now free from rain.
As we approach the single lock chamber at Clowes on the north side of a wide dam in the river, we see there are three boats already in place and the miter gate is still open, awaiting our arrival. We speed up a bit and join the flotilla. Four boats at a time is the most crowd we've had in a lock. Apparently these others have been held up awaiting word of resumption of operation at Nicholson, which is just a few hundred yards beyond.
The arrangement of boats is this: on the left side and forward in the lock chamber is a large and beamy 45-foot trawler. We are behind him. On the right side are two more modern-style fiberglass cruisers, each about 32 to 34-feet. We notice an interesting social dynamic. The couple on the 34-foot cruiser on our starboard side engages the canalman in animated conversation, as well as the folks on the other large boat ahead of them. However, they don't turn a glance in our direction, and seem to be intent on ignoring us. We find this behavior quite odd, as normally boaters are quite friendly and wave at each other like long lost shipmates in spite of having never met before. The fellow on the big trawler ahead of us is quite friendly, giving us a smile and a wave as he comes to the stern to handle a line. He is more or less single-handing his big boat, as his wife is on the flying bridge with a cellular telephone in her ear, engaged in conversation. The canalman, who actually is a young woman, is someone we met yesterday at Old Slys. She explains that as a fill-in, her assignment changes from day to day. Once all the boats are in the chamber we drop seven feet with little further delay, and then exit in the order of our arrival.
Our little fleet motors on to Nicholsons, where we enter a long canal cut on the south side of another large dam. We repeat our passage at Lock 19, dropping 8-feet more, with the same odd social dynamic. The fleet continues onward, reaching the lower lock, the one that had the problem yesterday. As the water level in our chamber drops, the miter sill which needed repairs is exposed. The lockmaster shows us where the loose stone has been re-grouted in place. It looks like it will be good for another 175 years of operation. The fleet exits the lock and proceeds down the river, maintaining the same order as before.
The speed limit on some portions of the canal is posted at 10-KPH, which converts to 6.25-MPH. The idle speed of the larger boats seems to be a bit faster than that, and over the course of about a mile and half of river they pull away from us. With our hull, pushing the displacement-mode speed above about 6-MPH produces quite a big wake and drives fuel economy downward to about 1.3-MPG. So we hang back, and, to tell the truth, it is more fun to transit the river alone than in a fleet. We let the others get ahead.
About a mile and a half further we come to Burritts Rapids and enter a long approach canal on the south side of the river while the northern portion flows over a spillway dam. The assistant to the lockmaster, alerted to our arrival, has ridden up on a bicycle to operate the wooden highway swing bridge to let the bigger boats pass. She is just closing it as we pass, getting under its 10-foot clearance without a problem. As we approach the lock, a break occurs in our little fleet, and the 34-footer veers to the side to tie up above the lock. He is apparently tired of being part of the group, and he's going to wait to come through this chamber alone. The three other boats, we included, enter the lock and cycle down 9-feet lower. Just beyond the lock exit there is a little peninsula with more docking available on the far side, away from the lock. We make a U-turn around the end and tie up for lunch.
We have a very pleasant lunch off the boat at a picnic table on the island peninsula. Another couple is casting and angling for fish along the wharf. They're not really catching anything, but enjoying a fine summer afternoon outdoors nevertheless. We spend about 45-minutes here, which gives us plenty of separation from the boats which carried on, and the odd fellows on the other boat are still tied above the lock. Into this little window in canal traffic we reenter the river stream.
The boating at this point is quite riverine, and we cruise along in mid-channel staying between dozens and dozens of pairs of red and green buoys. The weather is beginning to deteriorate, and we can see dark clouds blowing in from the southwest. So far, however, we have not hit any rain, but we can see that it is on the way. It looks like the storm system, moving along at 25 to 35-MPH, may pass in front of us, so we maintain a slow pace in the hope that the rain will stay always a few miles ahead of our 6-MPH advance. Streaks of cloud-to-ground lightning are numerous. We are glad we are missing these thunderstorms.
Below Becketts Landing the river widens and then is crossed by a major highway, Route 416, requiring a very modern and tall fixed bridge with 22-feet of clearance and about a 1,000-foot span. The banks here seem to be in a more natural state and the river level is probably near its historic stage. On shore are many homes, most with a boat docked in front. The rain has definitely blown past us, and we are back in sunshine. We have been quite lucky with the weather. We continue on, as we have miles to go. Along this stretch of river I notice that the fuel economy has been lower than usual. This turns out to be due to weeds collecting on the propeller. We have to stop now and then and clean them off in order to gain back that last 0.1-MPG of fuel efficiency.
In the late afternoon we arrive at our destination, Hurst Marine. They have a small private marina facility with some transient slips available. They also have a gas dock. Just to be safe we add 37.5-liters (about ten gallons). We aren't certain of the gas situation ahead, and this will give us plenty of margin. The dockmaster points us to our slip for the night, but I am having a bit of regret. The water in the small marina is quite still as it is completely enclosed by a break wall, and, as a result, the surface is filled with green algae growth. We will, literally, have to plow our way into the slip, parting the green surface growth as we go. A look around the marina shows that this is more or less a universal problem here, and every boat is sitting in a greenish soup. Lying on the exposed gas dock is not a good option, as we'd be rocked by the wake of every passing boat, so, green water or not, the slip it is.
Chris's plans call for us to stay here due to the convergence of several important facilities: dockage, fuel, showers, and a good restaurant close by. Our slip is very conveniently located near the marina rest rooms. They have very adequate shower facilities, too--not deluxe, but much better than many we have had occasion to use in our travels.
After tidying up ourselves and the boat, and enjoying the afternoon cocktail hour in the cockpit, we put on our foul weather gear and head for dinner. Rain is threatening again. It takes just a few minutes to walk to The Swan on the Rideau. Housed in a Tudor style building just up the road from the marina, this local favorite is serving cold beer and the usual pub fare. Chris enjoys a very large serving of fish and chips, while I switch back to beef and have a burger, washed down with a pint of Alexander Keithly's.
It turns out we don't need the rain gear, although the skies continue to darken. After dinner we have some time to kill, so we wander into the boat yard and sales area of Hurst Marine. There are four new and quite large Sea Ray and Meridian Yachts on display in the lot. They've been set up in a boat show style arrangement, with steps and docks built around them so it is easy to go aboard. The boat yard is shut down for the night, and there is no one around to ask for permission to go aboard, and, conversely no one to tell us not to. So we entertain ourselves for an hour by touring the very plush interiors of these four, big, very expensive, luxury cruisers. I am somewhat surprised that in these days of economic slow down--at least in Michigan--that a dealer in a small town like this would have over $2,000,000 in yachts on hand for sale on speculation. But further analysis reveals part of the optimism: with the dramatic swing in currency exchange rates, these new 2007 American-made yachts are now about 35-percent cheaper than they've ever been in Canada. And Hurst Marine seems to be doing a very good business in selling Sea Rays; their docks are filled with them, mostly 29-feet and larger.
The wind has shifted with the passing of the storms and the cold front, and it is now out of the north, bringing with it much cooler weather. A few days ago we were swimming in 90-degree temperatures; tonight we will be sleeping cozily with an overnight low in the 50-degree range.
Here are the sailing data from today:
Instrument data: ENGINE HOURS = 0342.3 GALLONS REMAINING = 27.2 (includes 10 gallons added) LOG = 119.9 miles Today's increments: HOURS = 3.8 GALLONS = 14.8 MILES = 23.9 Today's averages: GPH = 3.89 MPH = 6.28 MPG = 1.61
The nine-day narrative continues in Day Seven.
Copyright © 2007 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!
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Author: James W. Hebert
This article first appeared July, 2007.